Tony Abbott is breaking a promise for what he says is a good reason. He's making a virtue of the about-turn on a tax break for companies but continues to pillory the Prime Minister for her broken promise on the carbon tax. Double standards are not new in the political arena but this one is certainly up there, in the top rank.
Helping the business community, particularly small business, is a core tenet of Liberal Party philosophy. That's why Abbott stirred so much angst in Coalition ranks with his earlier pledge to slug large companies with a tax increase to fund his version of the paid parental leave scheme.
Now he has exposed the Coalition to easy criticism from the government over company tax.
A year ago Abbott conceded that while the Coalition would oppose the mining tax, it could not be seen to oppose company tax cuts, which will be funded from the revenue to be scooped off the top of the bloated ''super profits'' of three mining companies. This redistribution of wealth is to help non-resource sector firms that are not going so well.
The 30 per cent mining tax kicks in when a miner's profit exceeds $75 million per year. The resulting tax break for companies - from 30 per cent to 29 per cent - is due to begin in July for small businesses, and July next year for larger firms.
Abbott now says he just can't bring himself to support a tax cut funded by a tax rise. This means Abbott scores an A+ for his indefatigable efforts to be Dr No.
The Coalition will be voting against the mining tax legislation in the Senate next week. More significantly, the Coalition will vote against legislation in May to implement the tax breaks for large and small companies.
That would be a futile gesture if not for the new power play by Bob Brown. A year ago the Greens said that, like the Coalition, they would support the mining tax. They wanted the scope of the tax broadened, to gold and uranium, and they were not happy with the tax's proceeds being used to fund the tax break for companies. They have now decided to support the cut for small business - those with a turnover of less than $2 million - but oppose it for all others.
The result of the manoeuvring is that the Coalition and the Greens are working separately but simultaneously to deliver a defeat to Gillard, if you believe the bluff and bluster in this brinksmanship.
One minister predicts Abbott will back down on his sudden opposition to the tax break, under pressure from the business community. ''It's not a tenable position for the Coalition, I find it hard to believe that they're not going to back down.''
Therefore the government is trying to ignore the Greens' power play, and concentrate its vitriol entirely on the Coalition. ''I never thought I would see the day when the Liberal Party would join with the Greens and oppose a tax cut,'' Gillard says.
(Perhaps it is this forceful return of serve that is making the Liberals so sensitive, bordering on precious, about their new tax position.)
Earlier the Greens successfully pressured Gillard over the contentious mining tax. They bluffed until the last minute before confirming they would support it. The deal was sealed when the government agreed to make public the legislation for the planned company tax cuts, which was to have been held secret until the budget.
Forcing the government to bring this tax legislation out into the sun has driven the current impasse.
The resolution for the mining tax legislation should occur next week but the resolution of the power play over the tax cuts is less clear.
If the Coalition returns to its core principles and supports the tax break for larger companies, the business community will be happier.
The pathway to this backdown is that the tax bills are expected to be part of the budget package of bills. Abbott could then say, pretending resignation and reluctance, that he just had no choice but to honour the tradition of not blocking budget bills.
If, however, there is no backdown, and one lot of tax cuts are abolished, the money goes in the budget bottom line and helps Gillard return the budget to surplus. And Abbott will be questioned by business leaders, already worried about his proposal for a tax impost to fund the paid parental leave scheme.
You could say Gillard wins either way.
The Henry tax review recommended the company tax rate come down to 25 per cent to boost investment and create jobs. Gillard is tantalising the business sector by suggesting the government is starting ''on a journey down in company tax''.
If she is serious about a further drop in the company tax rate, might she consider tightening the screws on miners? We may have to wait until next year's budget to see if she is just kidding around, but any decision to increase the mining tax will be framed on the success or otherwise of the attacks by the PM and Wayne Swan on the very rich.
The Treasurer began that shrill pitch more than a week ago, trying to drive public opinion towards the mining tax on a wave of hatred towards the super incomes of the super rich.
Gillard's game is to link Abbott into the orbit of the obscenely rich, somehow. She says Abbott must tell the workers at the next small business he visits, that ''he does not want them to get a company tax cut, that he is going to make sure in this Parliament he votes against that business getting a tax cut, that he is going to exercise his choice in the Parliament to stand up for billionaires … rather than the working people in that business''.
And here's another bad look for Abbott - trashing the appointment of well-respected David Gonski as chairman of the Future Fund just because Peter Costello didn't get the gig.
As Treasurer, Costello established the fund and Kevin Rudd appointed Costello to the fund's board in recognition of his expertise.
But when it came time to appoint a new chairman this week, Gonski was selected, even though the board members wanted Costello, an insider.
That part was not known on Wednesday when Opposition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey welcomed the appointment and referred to Gonski's ''extensive and respected career''.
The reports about Costello being passed over were leaked by someone, maybe someone with a grandiose sense of entitlement.
Abbott should have let it lie, rather than prancing about in Parliament, suggesting Costello was entitled to the job.
Ross Peake is Political Editor.
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