We already have a Tax Commission – it’s called the Parliament

John Hewson over at The Drum:

… let us go to the other extreme and pose the question of whether it is inconceivable that the Abbott White Paper might consider, given the overwhelming importance of the tax and transfer system and the likely fierce, negative politics against whatever will be proposed, that it would make more sense to consider the establishment of an independent, permanent, Tax Commission, an institution designed to be “beyond politics”.

So this is how it would work: We’d have a ‘government’ and a Tax Commission. The ‘government’ would spend its days working out how to spend money and then hunting and wenching and fighting foreign wars and generally hanging out with its mates. Every now and then when the ‘government’ needed more money it would have to approach the Tax Commission. The Tax Commission would then assess the need for the money, and work out how best to raise the money, and then hand it over. But only if it deemed the money would be well spent. From time to time the Tax Commission might also require the ‘government’ to spend less time fighting foreign wars and the like in return for new money.

One day the ‘government’ might decide to raise revenue without the Tax Commission’s permission. What then? Well the Tax Commission might spend some of its own money to raise an army, hunt down the ‘government’, try it for tyranny, and then execute it. At this point the Tax Commission might decide that only its own members can be the ‘government’.

You get the idea.

Hewson’s real complaint is that the Parliament doesn’t work well in constraining the executive.

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59 Responses to We already have a Tax Commission – it’s called the Parliament

  1. KC

    Gotta love technocrats who think the world would be fine if only they alone governed without the pesky need for democracy.

  2. Bruce of Newcastle

    Now if it were an independent permanent Tax Removal Commission it might actually be worthwhile, given how Parliament itself is so unable to remove taxes.

  3. Ubique

    “Independent” means unaccountable and unanswerable.

  4. Toiling Mass

    “…the establishment of an independent, permanent, Tax Commission, an institution designed to be “beyond politics”.

    Which be promptly filled with Labor apparatchiks and career public servants who will miraculously always discover that we need more taxes.

  5. ar

    Hewson’s real complaint is that the Parliament doesn’t work well in constraining the executive.

    Hewson’s real complaint is he never got to play PM…

  6. johanna

    It’s frightening to recall that Hewson almost became PM. He seems to have no concept of what Parliamentary democracy is about.

    He’d be right at home in the EU.

  7. Infidel Tiger

    Unless you are wanting advice on abandoning your family on Christmas Eve and destroying shareholder value, Hewson is best completely ignored.

    His life has been one of epic failure and he’s a moral dwarf.

  8. dianeh

    No unelected organisation is going to be deciding taxation policy/rates for this country.

    We have parliament to do this, and at least when they cock up, like Labor did with the carbon and mining taxes, we can vote the bastards out.

    After Hewson’s support for the RET (on the grounds of the huge investment and the jobs) and now this, I am wondering whether he says these things to get his articles in the paper and his face on the tv. He cannot be serious about this.

  9. Pyrmonter

    Hmm.

    A Tax Commission that behaved like the Tariff Board under Sir Leslie Melville and Alf Rattigan would be a boon – sometimes these independent bodies do the Lord’s work.

  10. Ubique

    Hewson’s principal claim to fame is authorship of the longest suicide note in Australian history.

  11. John of Dandenong

    Sounds a bit like krudd’s 150 citizens committee. that blacksmith senator seems to be the only sensible voice in parliament. cheers

  12. Tracey Conlan

    I really hate it when alternate ideas are floated which promote debate about tax implementation.

  13. egg_

    Tracey Conlan
    #1422359, posted on August 19, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Certificate in Wrongology Grade III.

  14. .

    A citizen’s referenda with the power only to strike down legislation would do the Lord’s work without any of the risk it would become an unanswerable ruling committee raising tax rates against our will.

  15. Bruce of Newcastle

    I have a picture of Tracey.

    Here.

    She must be fed up with the Herald Sun moderators to slum it with Cats this way.

  16. Michael

    What about the Reserve Bank of Australia? It sets interest rates. Should this be the role of the government?

  17. .

    Do you want the government to do it, Michael?

    At best, the RBA can mimic a private clearinghouse.

    Furthermore, they set the cash rate only.

  18. Duncan

    Hewson was a failure as leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party and since then he has not – in any way that we can discern – made a useful contribution to political debate. Unless you happen to be a Leftie, that is. And we all know how they have tried to ruin our lovely country.

    He should retire quietly somewhere, far away from the media.

  19. Fred

    You missed the best comment at the bottom of Hewson’s article:

    Blzbob:
    19 Aug 2014 11:48:46am
    Just get rid of the stupid GST, as it serves no other purpose than collecting revenue and mostly from the poor.

    I agree, get rid of those taxes that serve no other purpose than collecting revenue!

  20. Leigh Lowe

    Mmmkay … I am prepared to give it a go.
    If this buffoon can explain, in 25 words or fewer, how GST works on bakery items without single-handedly giving the ALP an election win on a plate, then I’m in.

  21. Sinclair Davidson

    Should this be the role of the government?

    No – but this thread isn;t about abolishing the federal government agency known as the Reserve Bank.

  22. Mick

    Not to mention there’d be no way that the Tax Commission would end up a leftist stack …

  23. Shy Ted

    Dear John Hewson, when you get invited onto The Drum, it’s just the ABC’ way of telling you you’re irrelevant. Kindest regards, Shy Ted

  24. Jim from qld

    You missed the best comment at the bottom of Hewson’s article:

    Blzbob:
    19 Aug 2014 11:48:46am
    Just get rid of the stupid GST, as it serves no other purpose than collecting revenue and mostly from the poor.
    I agree, get rid of those taxes that serve no other purpose than collecting revenue!

    I’m in stitches at this comment. I can’t tell whether it’s a leftie or a liberty quote!

  25. .

    Just get rid of the stupid GST, as it serves no other purpose than collecting revenue and mostly from the poor.

    This is untrue. This is a mantra.

    If the left were really concerned about the poor and not raising revenue and controlling people, they’d ask for excise taxes to be abolished.

  26. David

    Get the Khyber from Bolta’s site Tracy?

    If you come here you’d better be prepared for a rough time as a lot of the Cats have long claws. Some are even known to use immoderate language.

    :-)

  27. Grigory M

    What a dud Hewson is. Twenty years ago he used to get $200 an hour to provide “quality” advice like this. Presumably, he has his sagacious little self in mind as the inaugural all-powerful Supremo of the proposed Tax Commission. That’ll be the day – the Coalition parties were well rid of him after he lost the un-losable 1993 election – and neither they nor the voters are likely to chance their arm with him again. He needs to have a cone of silence permanently attached to his shoulders and be banned for life from releasing anything in print and from making any public appearances.

  28. goatjam

    “Independent” means unaccountable and unanswerable.

    Also, it is easy to stack with your “independent” mates.

  29. John Hewson’s one of those interestingly irrelevant side-effects of our parliamentary system.

    They sort of hang around afterwards, like a ghost – a faded black-and-white image of someone who used to matter.

    Malcolm Fraser and Bob Carr also come to mind.

  30. goatjam

    Just get rid of the stupid GST, as it serves no other purpose than collecting revenue and mostly from the poor.

    Nonsense. The so-called “super rich” can easily avoid a lot of income tax, and they are incentivized to do exactly that due to our draconian income tax structure.

    It would be vastly more fair to scrap income and employment based taxes altogether and obtain the majority of taxes from consumption based taxes. The only people who are against such an idea are the entitlement class, who don’t pay any tax in the first place, and I say screw them.

  31. Tel

    Suppose the “Tax Commission” was an extra house of Parliament itself, voted for as individuals with proportional representation over all Australia (regardless of state boundary) and with only veto power, and only over revenue raising (which is to say Tax).

    Since borrowing is just future tax, they would have veto power over borrowing as well.

  32. goatjam

    “Suppose the “Tax Commission” was an extra house of Parliament itself, voted for as individuals with ”

    Good idea, as long as you restrict the voting rights to people who actually pay nett positive tax (and maybe some acknowledgement of previous tax paying status for retirees, requires further thought).

  33. Steve

    I think he is probably saying that the Commission would be the body responsible for setting the mix of taxes not the level. So I think your blog post probably misses the point. Nevertheless, it is unworkable if you give the Commission anything other than efficiency as an objective, most particularly if you include an equity objective. Even then, the points about accountability to an efficiency objective from unelected officials are right. A bad idea.

  34. Tator

    Fred,
    Bzlbob is one of the Drums resident muppet lefties, all groupthink and soak the rich of everything so there are no rich, just that everyone is equally poor. Believes everything that the Greens and ALP say without question and thinks the Right is out to screw the poor.

  35. Des Deskperson

    ‘At the extreme, it could be truly independent of governments, with powers, in consultation with governments but only subject to broad parliamentary oversight, to analyse, develop, educate and deliver the reform package(s) it believes necessary over the next several decades – a Reserve Bank-type role.’

    While it’s a little blurred by policybabble, this seems to be the nub of what Hewson wants. I myself would have no problem with ‘analyse’ or ‘develop’ but I’d be very worried about ‘educate’ and ‘deliver’.

  36. Giffy

    The hide of Hewson.

    “He should retire quietly somewhere, far away from the media”
    and far, far away from the boards of any companies in this country.

  37. Pedro

    That is a remarkably stupid article. First, changes in tax require laws and a tax commission could not make laws. So the idea is unconstitutional from the get-go. Second, the level of taxation is just as much a policy decision as the level of spending. If you put a commission in charge of tax policy we become even less of a parliamentary democracy.

  38. Grigory M

    only subject to broad parliamentary oversight

    And accountable to whom? We don’t need more unrepresentative swill.

  39. David

    (and maybe some acknowledgement of previous tax paying status for retirees, requires further thought).

    A thoughtful after thought there Goatjam. Being a self-funded retiree and having paid my share of tax over 55 years [starting at 16] I’d be pretty pissed off if I were to be excluded from the decision making process.

  40. Armadillo

    Slightly OT, and directed to any accountant here. What is the difference (if any) between a donation and an advertising expense as far as taxation goes? Are they both equally regarded as simply a deduction?

  41. Tel

    Commission anything other than efficiency as an objective, most particularly if you include an equity objective.

    Their objective is by definition keeping themselves in s job, so don’t bother with anything else unless you can find a way of linking the outcome to pay and employment duration.

  42. Tel

    Second, the level of taxation is just as much a policy decision as the level of spending. If you put a commission in charge of tax policy we become even less of a parliamentary democracy.

    Yeah, tax is very deeply part of the political process, probably the very heart of the political process. Trying to put it “beyond politics” is so extremely are about it should disqualify any supporter from any position of responsibility other than a soapbox speaking tour announcing to casual passers by how wrong they are.

  43. bystander

    Hewson’s real complaint is he never got to play PM…

    Hewson’s real complaint is that he is fucked in the head.

  44. bystander #1422759, posted on August 19, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Hewson’s real complaint is he never got to play PM…

    Hewson’s real complaint is that he is fucked in the head.

    Harsh but fair

  45. Armadillo

    Harsh but fair

    Both TRUE and fair. Mrs A used to work with his ex-wife. Nice lady who hated the bastard because he was, well, fucked in the head.

  46. Dan

    Slightly OT, and directed to any accountant here. What is the difference (if any) between a donation and an advertising expense as far as taxation goes? Are they both equally regarded as simply a deduction?

    How would they not be?

    John “are we still solvent” Hewson? Have I got the right Lib politician?

  47. Armadillo

    How would they not be?

    Dan, I’ll take that as a ‘no difference’? It all comes off the bottom line? I would then assume that the only benefit of a ‘donation’ would be as an individual taxpayer rather than a business? Excuse my ignorance, serious question.

  48. Robbo

    Hewson is a dickhead. He was a failure as a politician but somehow or another managed to convince enough of his colleagues to elect him as their leader. He then proceeded to make a mess of that job ending up losing the “unloseable” election to Keating. His days in parliament over he then turned into a rabid critic of the Party he once lead. I regard him in the same way I regard Malcolm Fraser, I despise them both because they are contemptible.

  49. Gotta love technocrats who think the world would be fine if only they alone governed without the pesky need for democracy.

    There is no need for democracy. A lot of signals suggest we would be better off without it.

    While we have it, it is best severely limited by principles encapsulated as houses of parliament.

  50. Johno

    “…the establishment of an independent, permanent, Tax Commission, an institution designed to be “beyond politics”.

    Hewson really is a dill.

    How can any organisation whose job it is to decide who should have to pay for government largess, even be ‘beyond politics’.

    It is politics. It is the very heart and soul of politics. It is the very essence of politics. Only a failed leader who has abandoned every core belief he ever expressed and sold his soul for cheap popularity would believe you separate politics from taxation.

    He must have got his economics doctorate from the same wee ties packet as Emo and Leigh. :-)

  51. dan

    I would then assume that the only benefit of a ‘donation’ would be as an individual taxpayer rather than a business?

    I can’t advise you but I recently advertised in the brochure of a local not-for-profit project and have put it down as “marketing expenses” although it could be considered a donation in concept. The brochure read like an ad. This might be what you are referring to? If so just check that the invoice clearly states whether it is one or the other.
    On the other hand donations which are acknowledged by a single line name in a programme are clearly not really advertising.

  52. Armadillo

    If so just check that the invoice clearly states whether it is one or the other.

    Thanks Dan.

  53. GeorgeL

    Hewson’s real problem is that he is a fucking loser with a chip as big as Mt Everest on his shoulder.

  54. Crossie

    only subject to broad parliamentary oversight

    And accountable to whom? We don’t need more unrepresentative swill.

    Nice Keating reference.

    As for accountable, I expect that in quick order it would devolve into something resembling “their” ABC.

  55. Up The Workers!

    And how much would THAT sponge cake cost, John?

  56. JohnA

    Armadillo #1422721, posted on August 19, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Slightly OT, and directed to any accountant here. What is the difference (if any) between a donation and an advertising expense as far as taxation goes? Are they both equally regarded as simply a deduction?

    Armadillo and Dan, the only substantive difference may be that donations for particular purposes may not be eligible as tax deductions (eg. political donations?). Have your tax accountant check the specifics.

    Oh, and make sure that the spending is legit., and accurately described. False statements in tax returns are dangerous.

  57. ga.brianga

    John Hewson making proposals about changes to Government (especially his angst at his former Press Secretary Abbott) places him alongside Malcolm Mark i

    http://www.news.com.au/finance/directors-jump-off-sinking-elderslie/story-e6frfm1i-1111116618618

    http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2014/7/10/policy-politics/palmer-joins-hewson-ret-love

  58. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    It’s frightening to recall that Hewson almost became PM. He seems to have no concept of what Parliamentary democracy is about.

    Yes, it’s not just Labor. The Liberals also seem to throw up some very weird candidates at times.

    Perhaps we need a few clear-thinking Tradies to sort them all out?

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