Here’s something you can expect to hear a lot about in the coming weeks: the moment when Tony Abbott said a Coalition government would introduce no new taxes.
The Prime Minister today did not deny reports of a new income tax under consideration as part of the Coalition’s approach to reducing the budget deficit. The reports suggest it will be a short-term “deficit tax”, mainly targeting higher-income earners.
Here’s the quote that’s doing the rounds, at 4m50s:
The press conference was at a solar business two years ago, and came in response to a question about company tax rates, specifically about the level of a cut the Coalition would be taking to the election. Here’s the quote:
It will be a modest cut. We took a 1.5 percent cut to the last election. There will be a modest cut that we’re taking forward at the next election. What you’ll get under us are tax cuts without new taxes. What you’re getting under Labor are tax cuts that are funded by new taxes and a tax cut that’s paid for with a tax increase. It’s not a real cut, it’s a con.
The rest of the transcript is here.
The opposition has already seized on this, with shadow treasurer Chris Bowen saying a deficit levy “will be the biggest broken promise of all”, highlighting that Abbott specifically said there would be no new taxes.
One way the government might end up positioning this is as a simple income tax increase – that way, it’s not a new tax, just an increase, which is not something Abbott directly ruled out. But voters hate these semantics.
For its insistence, Abbott’s quote isn’t quite up there with this: the most famous “no new taxes” pledge of modern politics, from George H.W. Bush in 1998. This was a carefully scripted, emphatically delivered line written by legendary speechwriter Peggy Noonan. Many will note that Bush, in office, was faced with a growing budget deficit and went on to increase certain taxes in 1990, for which he was mercilessly attacked by Bill Clinton in the 1992 campaign.