How Bill Clinton stopped Australia from taxing the internet

Former US president Bill Clinton. Photo: Getty Images.

Former Howard-era treasurer Peter Costello claims Australia – alongside other governments – missed out on a huge opportunity to raise “unbelievable amounts of money” through an internet tax.

The new Nine Entertainment Co chairman told Fairfax that he spent days pondering the revenue a levy around the internet could bring in.

“I was treasurer at the time. It would have been the easiest thing in the world, by the way, for governments around the world to have put a charge on the internet. It wouldn’t have had to be very big but it would have raised a motza,” Costello said.

“Governments would all have to agree together to do it, and the OECD was looking it at the time. It would have been hard to police but once (former US President) Bill Clinton came out and said the internet would be free that was it. Once the Americans said the internet was going to be free, the rest of the world was going to follow suit.”

Costello and other free-to-air networks are now lobbying against the government to scrap the $153 million-a-year licence fee TV networks pay, arguing it gives large overseas rivals such as Netflix and Google an unfair advantage.

“The biggest corporations in the world have access to a medium – the internet – where they are completely untaxed,” he said.

There’s more at the Australian Financial Review.

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