That faint hissing you can hear? It's probably the sound of disappointment, of hope leaking away.
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Tax reform eludes government
The government all but abandons serious tax reform - at least for now. Peter Martin explains what's in and what's out.
Hope among voters now that the reality of Malcolm Turnbull has fallen short of what many imagined. Hope among business leaders, now that it is clear his promised new economic leadership is not that new. And hope across the board, as the realisation sinks in that making Turnbull the leader had not miraculously transformed politics, nor lifted the nation above the partisan squabbling blighting public exchange for years.
The brightly coloured balloon that inspired such hopes, sent aloft by Turnbull's willingness to embrace new thinking, has ceased its climb.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the crucial area of tax reform, where an open market in ideas portended epochal change but has turned up little that is truly transformative. More tinkering at best, and more politicking at its worst.
Turnbull and his more punchy Treasurer, Scott Morrison, had led voters to believe that the old barriers of "tough" and "unpopular" would not be allowed to block reform. If it took a higher GST to re-configure the tax system, fund the return of bracket creep, and reward new investment, then it would be designed, explained and enacted. If the answer called for cuts to generous high-end superannuation tax breaks, crimping the capital gains tax discount, or scrapping complicated and administratively costly work-expense deductions, in order to lower income tax rates and achieve "lower simpler, fairer" taxes, then so be it.
Yet after all the angst, all the talk and deliberate misdirection, the product of the government's untidy internal process looks modest, incremental, and cautious.
In the end, Turnbull and Morrison have opted for the more fungible returns of narrow political advantage, rather than the longer-term pay-offs from the hard slog of genuine structural reform.
Capping negative gearing of investment properties by limiting the dollar amount of losses claimable against pre-tax income makes sense, as far as it goes, which is not far.
Ditto for the super changes, such as lowering the amount of income wealthier people can park in super accounts at concessional rates. This is wise but hardly bold.
Inadvertently perhaps, Bill Shorten has had a hand in Turnbull's new preference for minimalism. Shorten's scare campaign against the GST sent tremors through the Liberals, warning them off the rise. And then his bold policy on negative gearing offered Turnbull his best chance of a return of serve. With interest of course.