High price of tax on wa­ter

Central and North Rural Weekly - - RURAL WEEKLY - DAVID THOMSON

THE Queens­land Com­pe­ti­tion Author­ity (QCA) last week re­leased its fi­nal re­port into ir­ri­ga­tion pric­ing, rec­om­mend­ing higher wa­ter prices and costs for farm­ers.

In truth, though farm­ers are typ­i­cally an op­ti­mistic bunch, we should have known to not ex­pect any bet­ter.

A re­view by the QCA is noth­ing but a fig leaf for the State Govern­ment to claim it is keep­ing a lid on the ru­n­away costs of mo­nop­oly busi­nesses.

And let’s be clear about this. The wa­ter re­tail­ers Sun­wa­ter and Se­qwa­ter, like their col­leagues in the elec­tric­ity sec­tor, are busi­nesses ex­plic­itly de­signed to re­turn a profit to state cof­fers.

We need to drop the ro­man­tic and out­dated no­tion of them as pub­lic util­i­ties.

We also need to take a step back to un­der­stand how these pub­lic util­i­ties could turn par­a­sitic on the very in­dus­tries they were once de­signed to sup­port.

Back in 1942, Aus­tralia was en­gaged in the great­est con­flict the world had ever seen.

In those test­ing times, with de­fence a na­tional pri­or­ity, the states and ter­ri­to­ries handed over their pow­ers to tax in­come to the Federal Govern­ment.

But when the war was over, and our fo­cus nat­u­rally shifted back to health, ed­u­ca­tion, in­dus­try de­vel­op­ment and other vi­tal ser­vices de­liv­ered at the state level, the tax­ing pow­ers weren’t re­turned.

States and ter­ri­to­ries were re­duced to beg­gars.

They con­tinue to have no in­cen­tive to grow in­dus­tries where any ben­e­fit is first skimmed by the Federal Govern­ment and with no prom­ise of the cash ever com­ing back.

Two things have hap­pened in re­sponse, which for in­dus­try has turned from a wor­ry­ing trend into sad ac­cep­tance.

To­gether with other bud­getary pres­sures, the once great Depart­ment of Pri­mary In­dus­tries, the cham­pion of Queens­land agri­cul­ture, has been re­named, gut­ted and si­lenced.

And sec­ond, our pub­lic wa­ter and elec­tric­ity util­i­ties have been turned from in­stru­ments of in­dus­try ad­vance­ment into poorly cam­ou­flaged tools of in­di­rect tax­a­tion.

You’d be out­raged at suc­ces­sive state gov­ern­ments for these re­sponses if it weren’t so

Grow­com CEO



log­i­cal and ra­tio­nal.

Un­for­tu­nately there is no proper fix that’s easy. It in­volves ei­ther re­turn­ing tax­ing pow­ers to states and ter­ri­to­ries, or more boldly, abol­ish­ing them as a level of govern­ment.

Un­til ei­ther of those hap­pens, ru­ral Queens­land wants to see a com­mit­ment from both the State Govern­ment and the Op­po­si­tion to pri­ori­tise our prof­itabil­ity and de­cline the QCA’S rec­om­mended hikes on hid­den wa­ter taxes.

Pic­ture: Glenn Hampson

CASH FLOW: Wa­ter re­tail­ers are busi­nesses ex­plic­itly de­signed to re­turn a profit to state cof­fers.

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