Let’s repair the budget once and for all

Tue, 16 May 2017  |  

This article first appeared on the Yahoo 7 Finance web page at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/1187922-051601764.html 

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Let’s repair the budget once and for all

Let’s once and for all repair the budget and start on a path of lowering government debt by hiking taxes on luxury cars, wine, petrol, diesel, beer, spirits and so-called ‘other’ alcoholic beverages.

Not only will a decent lift in tax in these areas fix the budget, it will be good for the general health of the population (less alcohol consumed), it will help the environment (less driving and a switch to other means of transport) and in the case of luxury cars, it will be fair (taxing expensive cars).

It can work.

As the dust from the 2017 budget slowly settles, it is apparent that there is a moral and political advantage from selectively hiking taxes. There is strong support for the 20 per cent lift in the Medicare levy from 2.5 to 3 per cent; the bank tax is seen to be a claw-back of some of the support that government has previously given to the big four banks; while the tobacco excise tax impost (admittedly delivered over many years) is set to deliver nearly 3 per cent of all revenue to the government and people should stop smoking in any event.

As things stand, there is a problem in that even with this brazen tax grab from the Turnbull government, the budget deficit is still substantial and gross government debt is on track to exceed $600 billion within three years and then it will hit a stonking $725 billion (which will be around $55,000 per household) by 2026-27.

Let’s start from a budget fact that in the financial year 2020-21, the government will raise $15.2 billion from the tobacco excise tax. That is a lot of money from the 13 per cent of the population that smoke.

The luxury car tax in that year, will by way of comparison raise a puny $720 million even though sales of luxury car are already at a record and are set to growth further over the next few years.
So $15 billion from smokers and $0.7 billion from luxury cars?

Come on!

Let’s ratchet up the luxury car tax so that an extra $1.5 billion per annum (or more) is raised by 2020-21. Who could argue against a bit more tax on those horrid Porsche Cayenne’s? The money could be hypothecated against road funding and public transport infrastructure in the big cities even though it would simply flow through to the budget bottom line.

The wine equalisation tax will raise $1.02 billion in 2020-21. Wine is so cheap now that the cleanskins and goons are often cheaper than bottled water. Let’s address the health and other issues that alcohol consumption brings and ramp this up by $2 billion a year. No nickel and diming here. The case to ramp it even higher is strong.

The petrol, diesel and other fuel taxes will raise $21.5 billion in 2020-21. With global oil prices and therefore retail petrol prices so low, in fact lower than a decade ago, a hike in the excise rate that delivers and extra annual return of $3.5 billion by 2020-21 would add only a few cents a litre yet give a lot of extra money to be hypothecated against roads and road safety of some other existing cost. Easy.

Bundling the excise on beer, spirits and other alcoholic beverage together yields a tax take of $6.1 billion in 2020-21. How about doubling the various excise rates to yield an extra $6 billion and all of a sudden, the budget numbers are looking rosy, the population will wear it because the revenue is hypothecated against roads and health spending and the political cover is that there are good policies.

These items together, proposed this way, would raise a hefty $13 billion per annum to the budget bottom line. This would go a long way to locking in the surpluses which in turn would feed into a lowering in the level of government debt.

The revenue could also cover spending on education, universities, roads, hospitals and age care, all big ticket items that are growing at a rapid rate.

All of this is, of course, a bit tongue in cheek but it shows how the current budget has been framed and seemingly received. Either tax hikes on ‘bad things’ are good or if they are hypothecated against an item – disability insurance – no one will dare complain. Let’s do more of it while the mood is thus.

With neo-liberal economics all but dead, who’s to say a further round in tax hikes like the ones suggested are unlikely or undesirable? After all, who would have thought that the Liberal Party would be imposing a bank tax and further hike in the income taxes via the Medicare levy in the current budget when, just a few months ago, such things were all but impossible?

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Employment rose by a remarkably strong 3.1 per cent in the year to September, a fabulous result.

But, and it is a big but, the results are at odds with just about every other indicator in the economy. EIther they are misleading or the employment data are misleading.

One way to check it to have a look at the economy the last time annual growth in employment was above 3 per cent. This takes us to the period around 2007 and into early 2008.

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What bubble? The financial sector is fighting fit

Tue, 17 Oct 2017

This article first appeared on the Yahoo 7 Finance website at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/1897318-045821149.html 

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What bubble? The financial sector is fighting fit

Australia’s banking sector is in peak health and the household sector is having few if any problems managing its debt.

This is the good news from the Reserve Bank of Australia Financial Stability Report which effectively put the kybosh on the fear-mongers who continue to forecast a crisis in household debt, a crash in house prices and turmoil in the financial system and more specifically, the banks.

The key conclusion from the RBA was that “the financial system is in a strong position and its resilience to adverse shocks has increased over recent years.”

These are strong and direct words from the normally cautious RBA.

It also noted that the bank’s non-performing loans (bad debts in other words) “remain low” and bank profitability “is high”, which are the key indicators of financial stability and strength. The RBA went as far to say that “the banks also have ample access to a range of funding sources at a lower cost than a decade ago” which is fundamental to the functioning of the financial system. Nothing was presented that indicated current problems in the financial sector.

The RBA assessment can be tested from the markets, specifically bank share prices. Most evidently, bank share prices remain strong as the investment community continues to place its money where its mouth is when determining actual performance and even risks when allocating investment funds.