Pre­miers di­vided as tax high on agenda

Ab­bott quiet on GST rise

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS -

PRIME Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott has hosed down ex­pec­ta­tions his lead­ers’ re­treat will set­tle on changes to the GST.

“We are at the be­gin­ning of the process,” Mr Ab­bott said yesterday.

He, the pre­miers and chief min­is­ters will take part in a re­treat in Syd­ney to­day which seeks to thrash out a fu­ture frame­work for the fed­er­a­tion.

The GST is high on the agenda af­ter NSW Premier Mike Baird pro­posed an in­crease in the rate to 15 per cent from 10 per cent as a way of fund­ing a pro­jected short­fall in health fund­ing.

Mr Ab­bott has de­clined to say whether he agrees with his Lib­eral col­league or if the Com­mon­wealth would fi­nance any com­pen­sa­tion for house­holds.

Tax In­sti­tute pres­i­dent Stephen Healey be­lieves the Gov­ern­ment should, at a min­i­mum, un­der­take a com­pre­hen­sive re­view of the ex­emp­tions and spe­cial rules in GST law to en­sure they are still “nec­es­sary and ap­pro­pri­ate”.

Op­po­si­tion Leader Bill Shorten, who will not be at the re­treat, con­tin­ues to op­pose a rise in the GST, ar­gu­ing it’s a lazy ap­proach to the prob­lems cre­ated by the Ab­bott Gov­ern­ment when it cut health and ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing to the states.

But two other La­bor lead­ers, South Aus­tralian Premier Jay Weather­ill and ACT Chief Min­is­ter An­drew Barr, have wel­comed the con­sid­er­a­tion of Mr Baird’s pro­posal, while stop­ping short of of­fer­ing whole­hearted sup­port.

“We can’t en­ter these dis­cus­sions by just rul­ing things out,” Mr Weather­ill said.

Mr Barr said the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment had failed to con­trib­ute con­struc­tively to the tax­a­tion re­form de­bate.

“Just be­cause it’s dif­fi­cult doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try,” he said.

Like Vic­to­rian Premier Daniel An­drews, Mr Barr is keen on an in­crease in the Medi­care levy to se­cure more money for health.

Mr An­drews be­lieves it is a fairer al­ter­na­tive to rais­ing the GST.

While he ac­cepts the av­er­age fam­ily might be an­gry about pay­ing more in tax, he said the anger should be di­rected at Mr Ab­bott af­ter he hacked into hos­pi­tal fund­ing “like no other Prime Min­is­ter”.

Queens­land Trea­surer Curtis Pitt also said there would need to be a “com­pelling ar­gu­ment” to change his view of op­pos­ing a rise in the GST.

West Aus­tralian Premier Colin Bar­nett has backed a GST over­haul, in­clud­ing in­creas­ing the rate to 12.5 per cent and ex­tend­ing it to online goods and ser­vices and fresh food.

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