Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison are speaking at a conference today where they will outline some of the principles they’ll apply in their approach to tax reform.
It’s a clear signal taxation reform will be the central issue in the next election.
Morrison will be making the case that the tax system is inefficient and arguing that the current system will, over time, “limit jobs growth and make it less attractive to invest in Australia, affecting Australia’s continuing prosperity”.
Turnbull, meanwhile, is aiming to set some ground rules for the debate and will say business, politicians, and various interest groups “need clear-eyed focus on the policy goal – and not to get too caught up in ideological debates about how to get there.”
He will challenge business and government to “across the board acquire not just the skills but the culture of agility that enables us to make volatility our friend, bearing opportunities, not simply a foe brandishing threats.”
Turnbull has said before that “when governments change policies, it’s often seen as a backflip or a backtrack, or an admission of error. That is rubbish.”
Today he will elaborate on that theme, saying:
If a particular policy approach doesn’t deliver as required or expected, we have to be ready to reappraise and reset so objectives can still be met.
If there are blockages in the parliamentary system that can be cleared through sensible negotiation, we must engage constructively.
In all aspects of this conversation, all of us need to be talking about a culture that embraces change – a culture of adaptability, flexibility and innovation.
In other words, he wants people to be OK with changing positions on a particular issue and – down to brass tacks – he’s willing to trade things off with crossbench senators or the opposition in order to get legislation through the parliament.
The prime minister is taking a simple principle of business – that if something’s not working, you should stop doing it – and applying it to the political sphere, pleading for a change in how changes in policy direction are treated in political debate.
One of the major challenges for the Abbott-Hockey government was its dogged insistence that returning the budget to surplus would be, and could be, achieved. Before they realised economic reality was against them – especially with the China slowdown and the falls in commodity prices that crushed national income – it was too late. Hockey was left in the terribly awkward position of promising a tiny surplus in around 2021 which many believed was not achievable, especially on current policy settings.
Australians are keenly aware – and especially since the GFC – that the nation’s economic destiny is connected to what’s happening in other parts of the world, and that much of that is beyond their control. Turnbull is banking on tapping that understanding.
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