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No mention of GST by Turnbull at economic conference

Business

It’s been at the centre of national debate for much of this week, but Malcolm Turnbull didn’t mention the GST once during a much-anticipated address to an economic and social reform conference.

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Instead, the prime minister said he wanted to hear new ideas for tax reform – but with the “absolutely critical” rider that they be fair.

The object of the taxation system was to raise the revenue the government needed to provide services, but do it in a manner that “backs Australians rather than holds them back”, he said.

“Any package of reforms which is not and is not seen as fair will not and cannot achieve the public support without which it simply will not succeed,” Turnbull told the conference in Melbourne on Thursday.

On reform more generally, he said if a policy didn’t work, then “chuck it out”, or if somebody was achieving the objective in a better way, then copy them.

“Remember – the sincerest form of flattery is plagiarism,” the prime minister said.

Turnbull’s comments came after the Parliamentary Budget Office calculated the GST take would more than double to $130 billion if Australia copied New Zealand’s GST structure.

That implies a 15 per cent rate, rather than the current 10 per cent, and extending the base to nearly 100 per cent from than less than 50 per cent.

The federal government was quick to say this wasn’t policy. But it has stirred debate.

Modelling by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling shows that under a 15 per cent GST, the poorest would pay the most, even with a 5 per cent income tax cut.

The data commissioned by the Australian Council Of Social Service shows two-thirds of households on incomes of up to $100,000 would be worse off.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen says the modelling vindicates everything Labor has been saying about the impact of a higher GST.

“Compensation is almost by definition temporary (while an) increase in the GST is permanent,” he told ABC radio.

ACOSS says it’s not dismissing a GST hike, but wants the focus of the tax debate to be on stamp duties and business taxes.

“Fairness and simplicity would be undermined and it would do little or nothing to improve economic efficiency,” ACOSS chief Cassandra Goldie said.

AAP

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