Tax talk is a nec­es­sary evil

NT News - - OPINION -

AN­OTHER day, an­other Gun­ner Gov­ern­ment re­view.

The only prob­lem with this one is it's on a topic few un­der­stand due to its com­plex­ity, and few like ad­dress­ing — tax­a­tion.

Due to the fact the North­ern Ter­ri­tory is a just that — a Ter­ri­tory — it does not have the same rev­enue rais­ing pow­ers as fed­er­a­tion states. It also has a far smaller pop­u­la­tion with a fewer pock­ets to reach into.

So when there is a dip in rev­enue col­lec­tion, whether it is GST cut­backs or the econ­omy takes a down­ward trend, it can quickly turn from a rip­ple to a wave.

There is no doubt the cur­rent fis­cal po­si­tion of the Ter­ri­tory Bud­get, if not per­ilous, is dan­ger­ously close. We have recorded our high­est deficit ever in an eco­nomic cy­cle un­likely to see much sun­shine in the short term.

Cham­ber of Com­merce NT chief ex­ec­u­tive Greg Bick­nell is right — the Gov­ern­ment has four gen­uine op­tions be­fore it.

It can ei­ther in­crease rev­enue, which this dis­cus­sion pa­per is look­ing at. It can de­crease ser­vices which, in a com­mu­nity like ours where the gap is huge, is not prac­ti­cal. It can win the GST de­bate with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and con­vince them to re­in­state the $2 bil­lion it says it's go­ing to take ... or it can de­velop in­dus­tries such as on­shore shale gas.

From the out­side, it looks like in­creas­ing taxes is the eas­i­est op­tion. The other stuff ap­pears too po­lit­i­cally hard for them to ei­ther de­cide or tackle.

Vot­ers may or may not em­brace this dis­cus­sion process but there's no doubt they will end up pay­ing more. They may also be scep­ti­cal that Chief Min­is­ter Michael Gun­ner is again out of the Ter­ri­tory when ma­jor pol­icy de­ci­sions are be­ing an­nounced.

When he re­turns, it's a dis­cus­sion the Chief should be lead­ing.

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