Baird’s right to face up to harsh truths

Townsville Bulletin - - OPINION -

IT IS widely ac­cepted in this coun­try that Aus­tralia is in­creas­ingly liv­ing be­yond its means.

Equally, it is un­der­stood the prob­lem will con­tinue to get worse as our pop­u­la­tion ages.

By 2030, it is es­ti­mated there will be an an­nual $ 45 bil­lion short­fall in state and ter­ri­tory bud­gets, mostly in health fund­ing.

And yet, de­spite this aware­ness, there is a dis­turb­ing un­will­ing­ness to do any­thing about it.

It is a sad re­flec­tion on the state of po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic de­bate in this coun­try that a pro­posal by NSW Premier Mike Baird to lift the GST was im­me­di­ately shouted down yesterday.

But what Mr Baird says has merit — the sta­tus quo is un­sus­tain­able.

Aus­tralia risks “tum­bling over a fis­cal cliff” un­less the widen­ing short­fall in fund­ing for health and ser­vices can be found.

He is push­ing for the GST, which has not been touched since it was in­tro­duced 15 years ago, to be lifted to 15 per cent.

Whether or not 15 per cent is the ap­pro­pri­ate level, lift­ing the GST should at least be given proper con­sid­er­a­tion at this week’s state and fed­eral lead­ers’ re­treat.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Baird, com­pen­sa­tion could easily be paid to limit the im­pact of a higher GST rate on strug­gling low- in­come fam­i­lies.

Aus­tralia only has to look to the un­fold­ing fi­nan­cial cri­sis in Greece to see the dan­gers of do­ing noth­ing.

Un­for­tu­nately, though, the na­tion has be­come paral­ysed by par­ti­san pol­i­tics, with La­bor and the Greens un­pre­pared to coun­te­nance the idea.

As Mr Baird said: “We have a chance to take this na­tion for­ward this week. Let’s set our sights on that, rather than on the usual point scor­ing. This is what the peo­ple who elected us de­serve.”

Hear, hear.

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