Much about the Turnbull Government confuses me. Either I don’t know what they’re talking about, or they themselves have no idea what they’re talking about.
I’m convinced it’s the latter.
They say one thing while clearly meaning something else. I could write a book about the subject, but for the sake of a talking point I’ll limit it to the few examples below:
Shortly after being installed as our new you-beaut Treasurer, Scott Morrison says “we had a spending problem, not a revenue problem, and that he wanted to cut taxes further”. Yet his boss Malcolm Turnbull wants to raise the GST by five percentage points (effectively raising it 50 per cent). Malcolm Turnbull also wants to raise the revenue the government needed to provide services but it in a manner that “backs Australians rather than holds them back”.
One of them has no idea what they’re talking about. One of them is lying.
But of course we have an unfair tax system. That’s why Malcolm Turnbull has money invested in the Cayman Islands, where companies and individuals pay no direct tax.
Speaking of Malcolm, and speaking of investments, it was he who was the most vocal critic of Labor’s fibre to the home NBN yet “it was revealed … that Mr Turnbull owns shares in France Telecom, which plans to connect 60 per cent of French households to fibre by 2020”. Yet he still tells us that Labor got it wrong. So he destroyed it. Fortunately the French have a good NBN.
We are told ad-nausem by the proud and boastful government that they have stopped the boats. So why has Transfield – who operate the Manus Island and Nauru detention centres – had their contract renewed for another five years? One would expect that if the boats had stopped then all of the detainees would shortly be either settled in Australia (unlikely) or sent to some miserable hell-hole elsewhere in the world. (Oh, I know, if Labor wins the next election then all the boats will start again. Good forward-thinking by the government). And of course there’s the obvious: if the boats have stopped then why have detention centres!
Confusion reigns supreme in the Turnbull Government, and the Turnbull Government confuses me.
Today Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox is giving a speech in which he will assert that broadening the base of the GST and raising the rate must play a “central role in a [tax] reform package”.
Mr Willox, whilst saying tax reform should not be about “individual self-interest”, advocates the company tax rate be cut to “no more than 25 per cent” in the next couple of years, a reduction in the overall number of taxes, a reduction in personal income taxes that “reduce the incentive to work” and broadening the land tax base to reduce duties on residential properties.
If that’s not individual self-interest I don’t know what is. Mr Willox is paid a lot of money to represent the interests of big business and any pretence otherwise is laughable.
“Tax reform cannot simply be about taking the burden off the rich and placing it on others. But neither should it be about shifting all responsibilities for paying tax to the wealthy,” he will say.
The absolute chutzpah of these people, in the face of the mountain of evidence of tax avoidance by the wealthy and by companies, is astonishing.
Whilst it is true that the top 10% of Australian earners pay about 50% of the total income tax take, they also take home an astonishing 30% of all income with about a quarter of it coming from sources other than wages, salaries and pensions. The share taken by the top groups has been climbing since the early 80s.
Between 2004 and 2013 some $80 billion was lost through ‘legal’ corporate tax avoidance through the use of subsidiaries in tax havens and so-called “thin capitalisation”, where local entities are saddled with huge debts to reduce tax liabilities in Australia. An overseas arm of the company borrows money at very low interest rates and then lends it to the Australian arm of the company at exorbitant rates.
Almost 60 per cent of the ASX 200 declare subsidiaries in tax havens.
Data suggests that if all ASX 200 companies paid the full 30 per cent rate of company tax, the budget would gain around $8.4 billion more revenue a year.
Turnbull’s three word slogan, “work save invest”, is poor advice. As our taxation system stands, you are far better off to skip the work part, forget saving – just borrow the money, then invest it and sit back. Your ‘hard work’ and willingness to ‘take a risk’ will be rewarded. And if things go bad, declare yourself bankrupt so your creditors wear the loss and start fresh with some new risk funded by other people’s savings.
“This morning, we’ll be talking to prominent Coalition supporter, Mr Con Server-Tiff. Good morning.”
“Now, if I can just correct you, I’m not a Coalition supporter, I’m an independent commentator.”
“Yes, but you have been supporting Coalition policies, haven’t you? I mean it would be accurate to describe you as Right wing, wouldn’t it?”
“No, that’s the sort of bigotry that you people on the ABC indulge in!”
“But this isn’t the ABC!”
“Well, it might as well be if you’re going to attack people and suggest that they’re political views are irrelevant just because you don’t agree with them.”
“I wasn’t actually attacking your political views, I was just attempting to describe them.”
“This is the sort of stuff that the Christian Right have to put up with all the time! People describing them as the Christian Right, you don’t have the left wing described like that.”
“What about references to the ‘loony left’?”
“What about them?”
“Well, isn’t that an attack on them?”
“Go on, defend your left wing mates!”
“Can we get back to the purpose of this interview – the proposed rise in the GST?”
“An excellent idea.”
“But isn’t the Liberal Party supposed to be opposed to raising taxes, I mean, don’t they always spruik themselves as the party of lower tax?”
“Well, the important thing here is to ignore Labor’s scare campaign. This won’t be increasing taxes because the overall tax take will be the same. We have Scott Morrison’s word on that and if you can’t trust the word of a Liberal minister then they might as well be Julia Gillard who promised us that there’d be no carbon tax!”
“If you’re not increasing the overall tax take, then why is it necessary to make any changes at all?”
“To make it fairer, of course!”
“And how will raising the GST make the system fairer?”
“Well, for one thing, the government will be able to do what the Business Council asked last week and use the money to reduce company tax.”
“How is that fairer?”
“Companies will be paying less tax. You don’t get much fairer than that.”
“Yes, but how does that benefit the man in the street?”
“Well, nothing can really be done to help the homeless. If people want to sleep in the street, that’s their choice.”
“I meant the average family man. How does increasing the GST help the average family man?”
“Well, it won’t be just companies that pay lower taxes, I’m sure that Mr Morrison can find an extra billion or so to cut everyone’s tax.”
“What about the unemployed?”
“They’ll have an incentive to get a job now.”
“But if they don’t get a job, won’t the increase in the GST hit them harder than anyone?”
“Yes, but if they don’t get a job its their own fault. I mean it’s easy to get a job. Even a dud like Amanda Vanstone found work writing a column for Fairfax. And Joe’s going to be ambassador to the US. You just have to look.”
“With respect, I don’t think that the average unemployed person would find it as easy as those two to get that sort of job.”
“I was just using them as examples. Obviously not everyone can become an ambassador but there are plenty of jobs about. Why just the other day I saw a help wanted in a shop window.”
“You said something before about a scare campaign, but didn’t your side of politics run a scare campaign about the carbon tax and how Whyalla would be wiped off the map and lamb roasts would be $100 each?”
“That wasn’t a scare campaign, that was just a series of possible scenarios under the GST.”
“Rather far-fetched ones I might suggest.”
“Hey, are you here to ask questions or commentate?”
“Do you concede that those were rather far-fetched?”
“Not at all. The Liberal Party had already started printing maps with no mention of Whyalla and sooner or later lamb roasts would have got to $100.”
“Yes, how is it reasonable for you to say that the carbon tax was a great big tax on everything and not to expect that Labor would try the same tactic with the GST?”
“There’s a fundamental difference there!”
“Yes, what is it?”
“Well, Labor started running a scare campaign before the last election suggesting that if we got in we’d raise the GST.”
“But you are planning to raise the GST!”
“No, we’ve simply put it on the table. We need to have a clear, level-headed discussion without the hysterical commentary from the opposition saying that when it was first introduced Howard promised that it could never go up. That was last century and as if ‘never’ refers to a new century.”
“I think you’ll find that ‘never’ means ‘not ever’, in much the same way that ‘no’ means ‘none’ when someone says ‘no cuts’ to things.”
“If you’re refering to the so-called “no cuts to pensions, health and education” comments that Tony Abbott was alleged to have made.”
“There is film of him saying it right before the election.”
“Are you denying that there’s film of it?”
“Look we can get bogged down by what people did or didn’t say and whether the film’s clear, but I think that it’s more important to look to the future rather than argue about a leader who’s long gone.”
“It’s only been two months!”
“Are you saying that you don’t believe that Mr Turnbull only became PM two months ago?”
“No, I’m saying that Tony Abbott was gone a long time ago. After that Prince Sir Duke thing, nobody let him make any decisions.But let’s not talk about Mr Abbott he did some excellent things while he was PM and I’m sure that history will judge him much more kindly than many other leaders.”
“What are his achievements?”
“Well … um, he stopped the boats, and … um, he introduced knights and dames and even though, that’s been thrown out, there are a number of people who wouldn’t be knights or dames if it wasn’t for him… and… ah, he got rid of the mining and carbon taxes … and he … um, he stood up to Putin and told him that we were really cross … and did I mention stopping the boats?”
“But he didn’t get the ‘budget emergency’ under control!”
“Ah, yes, he produced a chart showing us that by 2050 Labor’s debt would be twice that of Liberal’s debt!”
“That’s all we have time for. Thank you.”
“Typical! Cut me off just when I start to talk about this government’s achievements!”
If we are going to have a conversation about taxation reform it would be useful if our Treasurer told the truth.
When asked about using the GST to fund tax cuts, Scott Morrison said “When you have the average wage earner in this country about to move into the second-highest tax bracket at $80,000 next year, you’ve got a problem with the incentives in your tax system.”
The most obvious reaction to this statement is wouldn’t it be easier to just change the bracket thresholds?
But beyond that, Morrison’s statement is misleading for several reasons.
Moving into the next tax bracket means you only pay the higher rate for the portion of your income over the threshold so if you if you are just above the limit it will make very little difference to the amount of tax you pay.
Moving into the second top tax bracket means you would pay an extra 4.5c for each dollar over $80,000. Because of the generous tax free threshold, the effective tax rate for this bracket ranges between 21.9 – 30.3%. This is never taken into account when making international comparisons.
Annual income of $80,000 gives weekly earnings of $1538.According to the ABS, in August 2014, the mean weekly earnings of employees and owner managers of incorporated enterprises in all jobs was $1,189 compared to $1,156 in 2013, nowhere near the $80,000 limit and unlikely to get there any time soon.
What’s more, there is a glaring gender disparity. For males the mean weekly earnings in all jobs was $1,410 and for females it was $948.
It is not until we take the specific subset of ‘males working full-time’ that Morrison’s statement comes close to being true. Mean weekly earnings for full-time workers in all jobs was $1,448 ($1,592 for males and $1,264 for females).
But is using the average even valid?
As any high school maths student can tell you, when you have a skewed distribution, as is the case with income, the median (middle score) is a far more reliable measure of central tendency.
The median weekly earnings in all jobs in 2014 was $1,000 ($1,185 for males and $838 for females) ie 50% of employees earned less than $52,000 a year.
Part-time workers represent 32% of the workforce and understandably, their earnings are lower. Median weekly earnings for full-time workers was $1,200 compared to $467 for part-time workers.
The difference between the mean and the median demonstrates the asymmetric distribution of earnings, where a relatively small number of employees and OMIEs have comparatively very high earnings with some 400,000 earning over $3000 per week.
At August 2014, 10% of people had weekly earnings in main job below $300, while the top 10% had weekly earnings in main job over $2,143.
Income tax has become less progressive in recent times, due mainly to the succession of income tax cuts during the Howard boom years. According to The Australia Institute’s Matt Grudnoff, only 3 per cent of taxpayers are in the top tax bracket now, compared to 13 per cent 10 years ago, so any bracket creep is just redressing the profligacy of Howard’s vote buying.
Whilst progressive taxation goes some way to addressing income inequality, the rapidly rising wealth inequality in Australia is taxed very lightly.
On the latest figures available, the median net worth of Australian households – that is, their assets minus their liabilities – was $1.59 million for the top 20 per cent and $29,600 for the bottom 20 per cent in 2011-12.
The capital gain on the family home is not taxed at all, while that on other assets is taxed at half the rate of savings such as bank interest. Superannuation is taxed at a concessional rate that provides the largest benefit to higher income earners. The combination of the 50 per cent capital gains tax and negative gearing makes investment housing an attractive option for many, particularly higher income earners, while lower income earners are increasingly shut out of the market.
Unlike other developed countries, Australia has no wealth tax, inheritance tax or gift duties, although they potentially provide the most direct means of curbing rising wealth inequality
Most capital investment or entrepreneurship faces a substantially lower rate than the personal marginal rate – either through the CGT 50 per cent discount, or the company tax rate of 30 per cent or 28.5 per cent for small companies. If you sit at home and make $50,000 on trading shares you will be substantially better off than someone who works hard all year to earn the same amount.
The Coalition like to point to New Zealand whose top marginal rate is only 33% (ours is currently 45%+2% medicare levy+2% temporary surcharge) but what they fail to point out is that there is no tax free threshold in NZ – you pay tax on every dollar earned – and the top rate kicks in at $70,000 instead of $180,000.
NZ has a 15% GST, another fact Morrison like to point to, but they have no general capital gains tax (although it can apply to some specific investments), no local or state taxes apart from property rates levied by local councils and authorities, no payroll tax, and a 1.45% levy for New Zealand’s accident compensation injury insurance scheme. They have chosen a higher GST rate to fund government services.
Modelling from the Parliamentary Budget Office has shown that increasing the GST to 12.5% or broadening its base would raise the same amount as a carbon price of $28/tonne but cost households about three times as much hence requiring much greater compensation for low income households.
The solutions seem so obvious but conservative ideology will blind this government to what must be done and once again, those least able to afford it will bear the brunt of the Liberals ‘lower taxes’ mantra.
Ok, most of the focus on discussions about the GST has been about how it’s a regressive tax and how it affects the poor more than the rich.
But there’s one other thing in this debate that hasn’t been prominent in discussions or commentary. If the GST is widened to include items currently exempt, how will that affect Health spending?
Given that a large chunk of health spending is paid for by the various governments, will they just be charging themselves more, or will the rebates stay the same and it’ll be up to the patient to make up the difference. In other words, will it be a “price signal” by stealth?
Even if the government does the right thing and increases its share by the increase in the GST, this will obviously lead to a blowout in Health costs which, of course, will have politicians arguing that it’s just not sustainable. (Interesting that the blowout in the costs of offshore detention never leads to screeches of how this spending isn’t sustainable. On a state level, one never hears that the massive increase in the cost of running prisons doesn’t mean that the “tough on crime” policy isn’t sustainable!)
Either way, it fits in well with the Liberals’ plan to destroy Medicare. Why they want to do this is a mystery to me, but it’s always been their policy either explicitly or part of their hidden agenda since Gough first introduced it.
Of course, the likely scenario is that widening the GST base will be discussed, but dismissed on the grounds that it would make it unfair on those struggling with their grocery bills, health costs or school fees. And when, Malcolm magnanimously rejects broadening the base, then a mere extra five percent will seem the reasonable alternative – in much the same way that removing Abbott led to the big poll bounce. “Gee, Malcolm answered that question by talking on something vaguely related to the actual subject and he didn’t way anything about stopping the boats. He’s so much better!”
Of course, the Liberals do some very strange things. I’ve never been able to fathom why they stop any increases in the superannuation guarantee every time they get into government. Howard froze it when he got in, and Abbott did the same. Given their rhetoric about people needing to plan for their retirement and the government not supporting them, one would have thought that increasing everyone’s super would be something they’d be right behind.
When it comes to superannuation, I’ve always wondered why it’s subject to a flat tax of fifteen percent. I’ve always thought that it would be better if there was a threshold before it was taxed. For example, imagine the first five thousand dollars was exempt from tax and the rest was taxed at twenty percent. This would be a big boost to the lower income earners and people would need to be on an income of more than $100,000 before they were paying more. The tax on super earnings could also work on a similar arrangement.
But I don’t expect we’ll hear much about changing the taxes on superannuation. It’s about as likely as the government using the phrase “a great big tax on everything” when refering to the GST.
It may be early days but Joe Hockey’s second and final attempt to bring down a credible budget appears to be unravelling already. Even on the night of his budget speech in May it was clear that his growth projections were far too optimistic.
It makes one wonder if the whole budget process was one started first by establishing a bottom line and then working backwards, fudging the figures necessary to substantiate it.
Is that how they eventually arrived at a growth estimate of 2.75%? Perhaps it was a case that if it sounded unattainable, to hell with it, that’s what it was going to be.
And then they made it 3.50% all the way out to 2019/20?
The Reserve Bank announced on Friday it was downgrading its growth estimate to 2.25% for the current fiscal year. Surprise, surprise! If correct, that has the potential to blow out the deficit by a further $11 billion.
Not that we should be concerned about deficits. It’s the ability to manage them that should have us concerned; particularly when our current treasurer thinks we only have a spending problem.
The fact is, deficit spending is what we need right now, but it has to be targeted. It has to be value adding, creating employment and making a positive contribution to our GDP.
The current deficit projections cannot be attributed to anything positive because they are essentially caused by over-optimistic estimates, not excessive spending. While revenue for the first three months of the May budget is on track, giving Scott Morrison some breathing space, it is based on reduced earnings that are likely to continue declining.
Peter Martin in ‘The Age’ says, “The charts in the budget that predict a return to surplus by 2019-20 were built around an assumption of fast economic growth of 3.5 per cent in the five years to 2021-22.
That growth estimate is simply unreasonable and based more on hope than insight. That means revenue projections over that same period cannot be achieved without significant tax increases. Realistically, a surplus is not on the horizon any time soon.
How long Morrison will continue to kid himself about his perceived revenue/spending problem remains to be seen but sooner or later he will have to face the reality of a slower China and a population not growing as fast as expected.
He has also stated that any increase in the GST would not be used to boost the overall tax intake. How could it not, unless it is all given away in compensation. If that’s the case, why bother increasing it?
Thus far, Morrison has given no indication that he understands how to manage a national economy any better than Joe Hockey. I have no doubt Malcolm Turnbull has a better idea but he is hamstrung by a neo-classical mindset that suffocates his extreme right wing colleagues.
This situation, therefore, foreshadows a difficult time for both men. Sooner or later, unless some Chinese miracle occurs, there’s going to be a clash of ideologies, a seismic shift that will see one of them emerge triumphant, while the other goes the way of Joe Hockey.
If it’s Morrison that survives, the economy and by extension, the Australian people, will be the big losers. However, the spin merchants within the Liberal Party will camouflage it such that it is not likely to be apparent until after the next election.
Without a radical change in strategies along the lines that Italy and Canada are starting to entertain, we will continue in decline for some time yet.
And we should not expect Andrew Robb’s Trans Pacific Partnership (TTP) to come to the rescue either. The news from Hilary Clinton is not good. It is unlikely that, in its present form, it will achieve the 85% GDP target of member nations it needs, for approval.
I suspect Scott Morrison is about to meet his Waterloo.
Personally, I think that maths is overvalued in schools. Now I’m not talking numeracy, I’m talking trigonometry, surds, quadratic equations and a whole range of things that most people won’t use past school. Fine for those who are going on to particular fields but a large number of students would be better off if they’d never had to struggle through them.
Of course, if you disagree with me, it’s not because you have a different perspective. It’s not because you think that maybe it’s a good idea to expose all people to maths because it’s good for them to be challenged. No, it’s because you’re gullible and a victim of the gigantic hoax that the maths teachers have invented. For a start, numbers aren’t even real. As for Pythagoras, not only did he believe that beans were souls migrating from one life to the next, he and his followers believed that numbers had magical powers. So, if you want to disagree with me, don’t cite a maths teacher or anyone who believes in maths teaching, don’t trust academics, they’re all part of the conspiracy. The best people to trust are your friends and family.
Yep, I sound ridiculous. While there is an argument to be had about how maths should be taught and whether it needs to be compulsory past a certain level, the idea that it’s a “hoax” and that you can rely on information from your friends and family makes me sound well, at least a little unbalanced.
Yet, this seems to be what the CSIRO’s survey on climate change revealed. People who didn’t believe in climate change found their friends and family their most trusted source. While I can support a degree of sceptism about what experts tell us, it strikes me that there are certain areas where the average person won’t have the necessary skills to be able to make an informed decision. Nobody says that they took their X-ray home and after everyone they know had a look at it, they decided that the doctor’s interpretation was wrong. In the case of climate change, many are arguing that they don’t even need to see the X-ray.
OK, there are “experts” on both sides of the climate change debate and it’s interesting to see how the media presents them. It was fine when Cardinal Pell gave his opinion, but Pope Francis should stick to religion. Anyone with a science degree or a couple of years at university hanging around the cafe is presented as an expert on climate change without much sceptism by the media and there’s no attempt to evaluate their credentials. . We have the absurd scenario where we’re asked to believe that a group of scientists decided that they’d find it easier to get funding to investigate something invented, and that rather than make actuall discoveries, they’d rather just take this funding and spend their time making stuff up. However, thanks to some intrepid physicists and geologists – often funded by fossil fuel companies – this hoax is being exposed.
Now, I’m not saying that the prevailing wisdom on climate change couldn’t be wrong. I’m simply saying that when one suggests that scientists have dishonest motives, one should be prepared to have one’s own motives scrutinised. Why climate scientists are supposedly part of a “hoax” and not just simply wrong is what gets me. For years, the cause of ulcers was misunderstood, but we don’t suggest that was because of some conspiracy to stop people stressing or eating spicy foods.
But speaking of hoaxes, how do you like this GST?
Remember when it came in?
No, I’m not talking about how “never ever” simply meant not until after the next election – although I suppose if that’s the case, then the assurances by Howard and Costello that it could never go up because, well, all the states had to agree and could you ever see a time when all the governments would agree to receiving more revenue, lasted a lot longer than we could have expected. That was “never” and not “never ever”, so I’m surprised that it’s taken so long before someone put it on the table.
Mm, I guess it’s easy to see why people don’t trust the “experts” and would rather listen to Uncle Frank and the guy next door.
Now, ignoring the politics, I can see an argument for putting up the GST. While the converntional argument is that it’s regressive and hurts the poor more than the rich, this needn’t be the case.
In the first instance, the poor have a limited amount to spend and so any increase in the GST won’t hit them in total terms as much as someone who spends more. If someone only spends twenty five thousand in a year, then a five percent increase can’t cost them more than $1250, whereas someone spending $100,000 could be hit for $5000. If the current exemptions on fresh food, education and health are included then it’s even less than the $1250. If you raise pensions and allowances by enough, as well as increasing the tax free threshold, you can compensate those who the five percent increase will affect.
Secondly, while income tax can be minimised by various accounting tricks to minimise one’s income, the GST is more difficult to avoid. I may have used the Cayman Islands to avoid the tax on my business, but when I buy my Jaguar, I’ll be hit for an extra five percent.
And finally, the extra revenue should enable the states to continue to provide services from which should benefit those who don’t have private health insurance or go to Xavier where they learn to be grateful that they don’t go to some “povo” school in Pakenham. (Hey, I know it was just one individual and private schools don’t really encourage that sort of class warfare thing. They just constantly tell you what a great education you’re getting and how their school is the best in the world. Why a student would think that government schools are “povo” is a mystery to them …).
So, I can see that a rise in the GST could be a good thing all round – even if it is the Liberal Party proposing it.
But then, I’m also gullible enough to fall for the climate change hoax.
If re-elected, they will make life harder or more miserable for near on all of the population. “Yes we can” says the poster. And yes they will. For example, if re-elected they:
will be doing nothing to address climate change
will possibly increase the GST, costing each family about $4,000 a year
will continue to ignore science of any description
will be doing nothing about housing affordability
will be doing nothing about the high unemployment levels
will be providing us with internet speeds that are the worst in the world
will continue to tighten the screws for people on welfare or income support
will still be giving billions to the mining companies
they will do nothing about the huge gap in wealth inequality (quite the opposite, they will continue to pander to the rich)
will do nothing to help the disadvantaged in our society (they will probably cut funding even further)
will continue to beat around the bush as far as same-sex marriage goes
have intentions of changing the media ownership laws which will give Murdoch even more control of our media (and they’ll probably cut funding to the ABC even further)
will continue to demonise innocent people (Gillian Triggs is a good example)
will make it more costly to see a doctor or a specialist
if economists are correct, the government will lead us into a recession
will keep ripping coal out of our beautiful country – coal that nobody wants
will make tertiary education unaffordable
will strip away our citizenship if (as a dual citizen) we do as much as destroy a government owned coffee table
will spy on our every movement
will jail anybody who dares report on atrocities committed by the government
. . . and on and on the list goes
But . . . they will keep telling us that they’ve stopped the boats and we’re safe from all those murderous would-be terrorists that did sneak through because they’re all locked up now on Nauru or Manus Island and with any luck they will either rot to death or be sent to a country with an unpronounceable name where they can perish without our knowledge.
And no matter how much misery this Coalition government casts over our own lives we will vote for them because of their asylum seekers policies.
As the snake oil salesman and his happy clapper gear up to sell us on their compensation for a higher GST, it is worth remembering how much we have already given up in the last couple of years.
When Joe Hockey decided to forego $6.5 billion revenue from the mining tax, workers paid a heavy price through his decision to freeze the superannuation guarantee at 9.5% until 2021. Labor had scheduled incremental increases reaching 12% by 2019. This will now happen 6 years later.
The cost of this for someone on $50,000 a year is $7,500 less deposited into their superannuation over the next decade which would compound over a lifetime of work to a significant amount.
The income support bonus and schoolkids bonus will both cease at the end of next year and the low income superannuation co-contribution the year after that.
The low income superannuation contribution gives up to $500 a year to help those earning $37,000 or less save for their retirement.
The schoolkids bonus is a $430 boost to family tax payments for primary school students, and $856 for families with children at high school.
The income support bonus is a payment of $221.20 if you are single, $184.20 if you are partnered, to people who are on benefits.
The Mature Age Worker, Dependent Spouse, and Net Medical Expenses tax offsets have all been phased out.
The proposed increase of the tax free threshold to $19,400 has been canned, costing us an extra $228 in taxation, and the income thresholds used to calculate Medicare levy surcharge and Private health insurance rebate will not be adjusted for three years.
From 1 July 2015, the primary earner income limit for Family Tax Benefit Part B is $100,000 instead of $150,000.
New mothers who receive parental leave benefits from their employers will no longer be able to also collect the government scheme from July 2016
Unemployed under 25-year-olds have to wait four weeks to get the dole.
Add to this the cuts to health and education, fuel levy indexation, proposed changes to university fees, working till we are 70, stagnant wages, and the loss of FttP NBN, and we are a long way behind where we were a couple of years ago.
Getting rid of the carbon tax was supposed to ease our cost of living but all it has done is rob us of about $7 billion a year in revenue.
And now we look like having an extra 5% added to every bill we pay (with the possible exception of fresh food), and 15% added to health and education costs. It kinda makes the GP co-payment look good.
Oh but low income earners are to be compensated.
I wonder how close that compensation will go to making up for all that has been taken from us in the last two years let alone the estimated $2500 (or $4000 according to Curtin University) an increased GST will cost the average family every year.
It’s all very well to suggest that businesses need tax breaks but if their customers have no money to spend, what’s the point?
Instead of trying to squeeze blood from a stone, how about tapping into the rivers of gold flowing to offshore tax havens.
Poor people have it. Rich people need it. If you eat it you die. What is it?
According to the Liberal Party newsletter, aka the Telegraph, the party who never raises taxes, the party who screamed blue murder about the carbon and mining taxes, the party who supposedly saved us $550 a year by ‘axing the tax’, is set to cost us thousands by raising the GST to 15%.
Today’s article seems to be a fishing expedition to see how much they can get away with. The preferred option is an increase to 15% with fresh food remaining exempt. The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling estimates the average household would face extra costs of $2915 a year under a 15% GST.
So much for Greg Hunt’s hand wringing over the price of electricity – it’s about to go up by 5% along with everything else but it won’t be the polluters picking up the tab.
To hide the pain, Scott Morrison is talking about income tax cuts.
“When you have the average wage earner in this country about to move into the second-highest tax bracket at $80,000 next year, you’ve got a problem with the incentives in your tax system,” he said.
One wonders why Scott hasn’t considered changing the threshold or would that be too easy.
Thankfully the miners and big banks will continue on their merry way with their superprofits intact while pensioners and single parents pick up the slack on budget repair.
By opposing same sex marriage, Tony Abbott has reinforced the notion that homosexuality is “queer” – that members of the LGBTI community are a threat to our society.
By indefinitely incarcerating asylum seekers in offshore detention camps he has reinforced the idea that refugees are not victims but criminals who pose another threat to our society.
By labelling us as lifters or leaners he has reinforced the perception that those on welfare are bludgers, scamming the system because they are too lazy to get a well-paying job.
By calling women who receive maternity leave from their employer “double-dippers” who are committing fraud, he has failed to appreciate the disadvantage women face in the workplace and denied them their workplace entitlements.
By saying he wants Sydney house prices to go up – if people are buying them they must be affordable – he shows an unbelievable ignorance of the housing affordability crisis.
By his perpetual dog-whistling about imminent terror threats from an apocalyptic death cult, as well as brief flirtations with banning cultural dress, he has alienated the Muslim community and made them the target of suspicion and abuse.
By ignoring all scientific evidence about climate change and the dangers of burning more coal, he has destroyed the renewable energy industry and damaged the global effort to avoid catastrophic weather events.
By proposing the deregulation of university fees, despite receiving the benefits of a free education and several of his ministers campaigning against fees when student politicians, he is potentially saddling our children with a huge debt before they even begin their working lives thus precluding large numbers from even considering a tertiary education.
By dismantling FttP NBN, he has made Australia an information backwater, ranked 44th and falling for internet speed. While the rest of the world moves to fibre, we are paying a fortune for Telstra’s copper network.
By stripping people of their citizenship, he is breaking up Australian families and leaving people homeless.
By demonising unions he has robbed workers of their collective voice in preparation for the resurrection of workchoices and the demise of penalty rates.
By slashing over $500 million from Indigenous funding, combined with intemperate comments about uninhabited Australia and lifestyle choices, he has shown a blatant disregard for our First People, their culture, the crisis of Aboriginal incarceration, and our failure in closing the gap.
By defunding NGOs, charities and community groups, he has caused the closure of refuges, crime prevention and mentoring programs, and domestic violence support groups.
By introducing metadata retention and criminal charges for disclosure, he has sanctioned spying on all citizens and overridden the public’s right to know what is done in our name.
By refusing to release government advice and modelling, he is robbing us of the chance to make informed decisions.
By slashing funding to the States he is making it basically inevitable that the GST will go up, greatly increasing the cost of living.
By freezing the indexation on Medicare payments, he will force doctors to make up the lost revenue – a co-payment by stealth. He has also almost entirely dismantled Australia’s national preventive health system.
By slashing funding to the CSIRO and other research bodies, he has caused many promising programs to be abandoned and we are losing our brightest researchers to other more enlightened countries who understand the value of their work.
By being unwilling to undertake economic reform, he has overseen a deterioration in all economic parameters with no upturn in sight.
By insisting on captain’s picks, usually advising his colleagues via the Murdoch press, he has alienated his Cabinet, his party room, the Parliament and the people.
By abrogating our global responsibilities towards asylum seekers and credible action on climate change, combined with gaffes too numerous to mention, he has trashed our international reputation.
But hey, he gave up billions in revenue from the carbon and mining taxes and stopped talking about the boats. And IS haven’t invaded us yet. Surely that’s enough reason to want him as our leader?
I welcome your call for a mature debate on taxation. I too deplored the “screaming match” that surrounded the introduction of carbon pricing and am pleased you realise how counterproductive that sort of approach is to constructive governance.
As a concerned citizen I would like to make a few suggestions to get the ball rolling.
Your opening gambit is to increase the GST. This is a regressive tax which will, once again, disproportionately hit lower income earners. Treasury modelling done for the previous government showed that even a modest increase in the rate to 12.5 per cent – along with removal of exempted items such as food, health, childcare, and school fees – could hit a two income two-child family by as much as $205 per fortnight.
Perhaps there is a better way. For example:
Fossil fuel subsidies.
The Australian Government is set to spend over $40 billion in the form of tax rebates and concessions, foregone revenue and expedited write downs of assets per year from 2013/14 to 2016/17. This assessment only includes tax measures, and does not include direct grants or State Government measures, which could add billions more to the annual totals.
The proposed replacement climate policy, the Emissions Reduction Fund, relies on paying companies as an incentive to reduce their emissions. A fundamental contradiction exists between such a policy and the continuation of a range of existing fossil fuel subsidies. Many subsidies significantly reduce the economic signal for companies to identify efficiency opportunities.
Polluter handouts are also highly inequitable. For instance, the mining industry receives a 32c per litre discount on fuels such as petrol and diesel for off‐road use. So while most Australians are paying full price for their fuel at the bowser, their taxes also cover the cost of a huge discount to the mining industry. In all, this handout costs Australian taxpayers $2 billion each year.
Australia, along with all other G20 nations, committed in 2009 to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies over the medium term. In his recent State of the Union address, US President Barack Obama reiterated the need to phase out tax‐based fossil fuel subsidies. Other organisations like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the United Nations and the International Energy Agency are also calling for nations to end fossil fuel subsidies.
In 2009, the Commonwealth Treasury identified $8 billion in annual savings that could be made if Australia fulfilled this commitment. This money could be used to fund a wide range of nation‐building projects, yet to date we continue to use these funds to line the pockets of polluting, and in many cases highly profitable, industries.
Prime Minister Abbott has said that there is to be an end to corporate welfare. Statements by Treasurer Joe Hockey have warned that “the age of entitlement is over,” and that “everyone in Australia must do the heavy lifting now.” It is critical that this rhetoric, if applied, is applied consistently.
A study by the Australia Institute found the rate of growth of super tax concessions is greater than that of the pension despite the ageing population, meaning the cost of the tax concession will soon overtake the pension to become ”the single largest area of government expenditure,” by 2016-17.
”’The age pension currently costs $39 billion and superannuation tax concessions will cost the budget around $35 billion in 2013-14,” the study found.
It notes that the Commonwealth bill for these concessions is projected to rise at a staggering 12 per cent annually to be $50.7 billion in 2016-17.
”The overwhelming majority of this assistance flows to high-income earners,” the report finds.
”Low-income earners receive virtually no benefit. The combined cost of these two policies will be $74 billion in 2014 alone.”
The Grattan Institute’s report, Balancing budgets: tough choices we need, included a section on abolishing negative gearing, which it claims would save the Budget around $4 billion per year initially, falling to a saving of around $2 billion per year over the longer term.
Grattan highlights a number of non-budget (social) benefits from reforming negative gearing, namely:
1.increasing home ownership rates by reducing returns at the margin for landlords relative to first homebuyers; and
2.increasing investment in other more productive assets.
The report also debunks claims that reforming negative gearing would raise rents, since “for every landlord that sells, there would be a renter that buys and becomes a home-owner. The supply of rental properties would fall at the same rate as the number of renters”. It also does not believe that the construction of dwellings would be materially affected, since “almost all of investment property loans are now for existing dwellings”.
A report by the Tax Justice Network – an international group focused on investigating tax avoidance – and the United Voice union says almost a third of companies listed on the ASX 200 pay 10 per cent or less in corporate tax.
This is substantially less than the statutory 30 per cent corporate tax rate.
Some companies, such as James Hardie and Westfield Retail Trust, pay zero tax.
Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox pays 1 per cent tax and casino group Echo Entertainment pays 5 per cent tax.
The report says the government is losing out on at least $8.4 billion in tax each year, which is substantial but may be the tip of the iceberg.
According to the research, 57 per cent of all ASX 200 companies have subsidiaries in tax havens.
Several big-name companies, such as 21st Century Fox, Westfield, Toll Holdings and Telstra, have more than 40 entities in well-known tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda.
Fourteen in the 20 top companies, including two of the country’s big banks, also hold entities in these locations, according to the report.
“Secrecy jurisdictions play a key role in multinational tax dodging and undermine the ability of democratically elected governments to levy taxes in a just and fair way,” the report’s authors say. “Corporate tax avoidance must be addressed.”
Financial transaction tax
Introduce a Financial Transactions Tax on various categories of financial transactions including: stocks, bonds and currency. If implemented on a global basis, its projected revenue could be as much as US$400 billion a year, depending on the size of the levy imposed, the size of the reduction in trading (if any), and the number of implementing countries/jurisdictions. In the US alone it has been estimated that annually, between US$177 and $353 billion could be raised.
A flat rate of 0.05% has been proposed on all financial market transactions, many experts actually advise vary rates (of between 0.01 and 0.5%) depending on the transaction (stocks, bonds, currency, commodities, swaps, derivatives, etc). The UK stock exchange, one of the largest in the world, already has a 0.5% tax on share transactions.
(1) An FTT will reduce the instability in the global financial system by reducing the volume of trading in financial markets, especially the sort of trading that increases market instability and has led to the turbulence in the financial markets over the last decade.
(2) An FTT will provide an effective way of raising revenues for both domestic purposes, such as assisting governments help pay for the costs of post-financial crisis bailouts, as well as for spending for international public goods, such as the funds needed for climate change adaptation, and to assist countries in meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
The tax is specifically designed to target high frequency traders, especially of securities, where the average holding period is often minutes or seconds. High-frequency traders currently account for 70% of US equity market trading and 30-40% of the volume of trading on the London Stock Exchange.
The tax will only affect financial institutions and funds to the extent that they are involved in this type of high-frequency trading.
Australia is a leading player in global finance in its own right: the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) is the ninth largest stock exchange in the world. Australian support of the FTT would be a significant boost to the cause of the global campaign. Moreover, Australia is a G20 country and plays a significant role in the group whose endorsement would effectively make the FTT a reality.
You could always keep the mining tax and close the rorting of FBT car leases and…dare I say, bring back the carbon tax…if you are mature enough to admit when you are wrong.
So let’s have some mature debate on these issues Mr Abbott before we jump to charging pensioners more for their bread and single parents more for childcare and sick people more for their medicine.
When Malcolm Turnbull called for a vote on the Liberal leadership in 2009, Tony Abbott eventually won by one vote. One of Malcolm’s supporters was in hospital at the time and was not given a proxy vote, but more interestingly, one person just wrote “NO” on the ballot paper. Whilst I can understand not being pleased with the choice on offer, what I cannot understand is how a Member of Parliament can so abrogate their responsibility as to vote informally when they are possibly choosing the future Prime Minister of Australia.
The carbon price was introduced to encourage polluters to clean up their act or pay the price. Why was this cost then passed on to consumers on their power bills? It seems to me that the polluters got off scot free and that their customers actually footed their carbon tax bill. They should have achieved the savings they needed by reducing their pollution rather than charging us. If the government really wanted to reduce the power bills for the average Australian, why not make domestic power bills GST free since businesses can already claim the GST back?
If you look at the entire worldwide cosmetic industry, sales reach about $170 Billion dollars a year. It’s distributed pretty uniformly around the world with ~$40 billion in the Americas, ~$60 billion in Europe, ~$60 billion in Australia & Asia, and another $10 billion in Africa. The Western world spends a bit more per person but India and Asia are quickly catching up. What an absolutely ridiculous waste of money and resources on making people feel inadequate.
Why do footballers hug and kiss and cry so much nowadays? Remember when a handshake just involved extending your right hand to your opponent rather than clasping them to your bosom in a heartfelt embrace? Have you noticed how many athletes have emotional problems? Or gambling or substance abuse problems? Paying sports people millions of dollars to play a game has led to huge pressure on individuals, organised violence to win, cheating, match fixing, doping, infiltration by organised crime. Does a soccer player contribute more to the world than a nurse or a teacher?
Finland has the best education system in the world but they do things quite differently to us. Perhaps we could learn a few things from them (though they did ban Donald Duck comics because he doesn’t wear pants).
School starts at 7 years
No homework for young children
No exams until you turn 13
All classes are mixed ability
Max 16 students in science class
Lots of break time every day
Teacher training to masters level
Teacher training is paid for by government
Approximately 3.5 million people in the U.S. are homeless, many of them veterans. At the same time, there are 18.5 million vacant homes in the country. The situation is similar in Europe where more than 11 million homes lie empty while 4.1 million people are homeless. In Australia, at the 2006 census around 10 per cent of housing stock was recorded as vacant yet there are over 105,000 people who are homeless.
The United States, Liberia and Burma are the only countries not to adopt the metric system.
The title of this article is Murdochesque in that it may have inflamed anger you are already feeling, but the article that follows won’t provide what the titillatory heading implies.
I am not going to discuss Shorten vs Albanese or Abbott vs Turnbull. I am not interested in Left vs Right or misogynists vs misandrists. I am talking about us, we Aussies, regardless of who we voted for or where we were born or if we are rich or if we have breasts.
We have different past (and current) grievances which we could argue endlessly about who said what and who is to blame for current circumstances but where does it get us? What are we achieving by planting ourselves firmly in one camp and refusing to work with the ‘enemy’ in a constantly backward looking blame game?
For three years we listened to Tony Abbott deny the legitimacy of the previous government. We watched the behaviour in (and out) of Parliament degenerate into a slanging match which was reflected by the atrocious treatment of Julia Gillard.
Regardless of whether you agreed with the policies of the day, we allowed our first female Prime Minister to be bullied and slandered in the most despicable way. This would not have been tolerated in any other workplace. Nor would it have been allowed to continue at a school.
And the truly chilling thing was that this was led by people in public life. Coalition politicians and lobbyists actually suggested violence with comments like “slit her throat” from our now Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, Steve Ciobo, or “they should be out there kicking her to death” from John Howard’s former chief of staff, Grahame Morris.
Tim Wilson, our new Human Rights Commissioner, said on Lateline last night that we must take personal responsibility and shine a light on dark places. Aside from the fact that it was in the context of saying that victims of discrimination and harassment should know their rights (human/moral, not legal) and stand up for themselves without legal protection, I agree at least with the sentiment that we should all try to set a higher personal and collective standard.
It is reasonable to examine what a politician has said or done in the past only in so far as it informs their current view and future direction. This constant waste of time in Parliament speculating about possible illegalities is pure manipulation and obfuscation. If someone has acted illegally or improperly then there are procedures to deal with that and appropriate bodies to pursue the matter.
The blatant trial by media of Slipper, Thomson and Gillard was echoed (or led) endlessly in Parliament. As the police were apparently investigating all three cases, I fail to see how this was in any way productive, and it was unquestionably prejudicial to any future legal case. It was a blatant attempt to destroy the reputation of three people, one of the few things mentioned by Tim Wilson as something that must be legislated against. Aside from this, it was an inexcusable waste of precious Parliamentary time. We are paying them to govern the country, not to pre-empt the judicial system.
I accept that the Coalition was voted into government by the majority of Australians and is therefore the legitimate government of the day. I do not accept that this means that the other parties and Independents must change their policies. They represent people who voted for them and should give alternate views a voice. But we need the courage and skill to be able to compromise, to identify common goals and a path towards them.
What I find harder to accept, but have been forced to, is that the Liberal Party actually believe that Tony Abbott is the best person to lead them and the person of most merit to fill the position of Prime Minister. After such a resounding victory at the last election and their incessant commentary about leadership tensions within the Labor Party, there is no chance that Mr Abbott will be replaced so we are stuck with him and must learn to accept that.
This makes negotiation much harder as Mr Abbott is that rare combination of a populist idealogue. He is in the process of silencing dissenting voices or expert advice that does not suit his agenda and is appointing people who represent only one side of society – that of big business.
Governments are the only protection that the people have from the greed of big corporations whose aim is to maximise their profits. Business plays to the umpire so if he isn’t calling offside then they will encroach as far as they can. Mr Abbott has made his ideology clear by sending off most of the other team so that is the political climate we must deal with.
There is no point sitting here in shock, or wallowing in self-pity, or screaming in indignant rage. We need to do what our politicians seem unable to do and that is to remember we are on the same team. We must listen to each other. We all want a better Australia. There is a common starting point that we can all agree on surely. If we accept that we all have that common goal then we can move to the next step.
Simply put, the role of government is to provide services and protection. They have many tools at their disposal to fulfil this role but before looking at the ‘how’ we should identify which services we need and what is most important to protect. Can we find common ground there?
Do we agree that we must protect the environment? Do we agree that we must protect our children? Do we agree that we must protect jobs? Do we agree that we must protect our national health and pharmaceutical benefits scheme? Do we agree that we must provide equal opportunity for education and skills training? Do we agree we must provide a safety net for the disadvantaged and vulnerable?
If we can agree on the desirability of those goals then we can discuss how to achieve them regardless of what colour guernsey we wear. We should stop the hate and start building solutions. We have to open dialogue with people who think differently, ask them what they want to happen, and then find a way to get there that makes us both happy. Can we listen and help each other achieve what we want?
One example is climate change. Half of the population are in favour of urgent action, the other half are worried about their electricity bill. So we have to find a way to reduce power costs whilst acting on climate change. As I suggested previously, this could be achieved by making electricity GST free. I invite comment about this idea because it seems a compromise that satisfies both aims. It is also so simple it should be easy to sell to everyone. The only group that lose out are the government who will have reduced GST revenue but if they kept the carbon tax they would have an extra 7 billion and would save over 3 billion by not having to pay polluters. They would also save money on review committees and if they kept the Clean Energy Finance Corporation they would collect the profits of about 200 million a year. Surely over 10 billion should cover any loss of GST.
You may recall that one of the fabricated fears planted in people’s’ minds before the last election was that a Labor Government would raise the GST. Those of us who remember the perceived threat may also remember the public outcry expressed by readers who left comments on popular sites like Rupert Murdoch’s news.com.
Someone, somewhere, dreamt up that Gillard would raise the GST, the papers ran with it, and public outrage followed. Now who would have raised such an idea? Given the negative aspects and the timing of the alleged threat I’m sure the Liberal camp might have had a small bit to play in it. I’m sure they might have been a little bit bemused that there were genuine calls to have it raised, with many of the callers being the end of town that party with the Liberals party.
The calls became more vociferous leading up to the Tax Summit.
But you may ask: “Why should we raise such a repressive tax?” Well, there were a number of reasons mooted at the time. Independent MP Tony Windsor started off with the most simplest of these.
Tony Windsor has suggested the GST should rise by 1 percentage point to allow 115 “inefficient” taxes to be eradicated.
Mr Windsor and fellow crossbencher Tony Crook . . . called for the GST to be examined . . . following Treasury warnings that the tax has become increasingly inefficient.
Mr Windsor’s suggestion was in the wake Treasury’s executive director of revenue Rob Heferen’s statement that the GST was costing more to collect than other taxes and was “less than robust” because of increased spending on tax-free items.
The OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration highlighted the “practical reality” of an increase, being that it was essential to achieve many of the reforms recommended by the government’s tax review (The Henry Review) of 2009.
“There would seem to be a fairly compelling logic to GST base broadening and a slightly higher rate (eg 12.5 per cent) as a means of rationalising the major state taxes and compensating low-income citizens who would otherwise be unfairly impacted by GST expansion,” said the centre’s senior adviser Richard Highfield.
Viewing the current tax system as unfair and inefficient, accounting bodies also put their weight behind the call. Among them, CPA Australia suggest that:
. . . increasing the GST to 15 or 20 per cent, accompanied by cuts to business and personal tax rates, would improve the economy and raise the standard of living. “Our research helps demystify concerns that an increase in GST would hurt Australians,” CPA Australia chief executive Alex Malley said.
But the sharpest call and strongest argument comes from the big end of town; the business groups with the Australian Industry Group leading the call.
The Australian Industry Group is urging an increase in the rate of the GST – or a broadening of its application to more goods and services – as a way to pay for the removal of inefficient state taxes.
The Ai Group – whose chief executive Heather Ridout was involved in the Henry tax review – says the states and territories have among the most inefficient and poorly designed of all Australia’s taxes.
Ideally, the group says, insurance taxes and conveyancing duties would be removed and payroll tax remodelled or removed. Land tax could be improved substantially.
Compliance costs could be reduced by harmonising remaining state taxes, and economies of scale exploited by using the Australian Taxation Office to collect state revenue.
A more broadly based or higher GST should finance the removal of as many existing state taxes as possible, it says.
I found it rather interesting, that during the scare campaign the Murdoch media, in particular, were wheeling out all sorts of experts calling for the increase. In the minds of the readers raising the GST would be a good thing and Labor would fall prey to this meme.
In numerous media releases leading up to the tax summit the Government clearly ruled out the increase, or that it will be tabled for discussion. To do so would have been political suicide. It may have also been seen as an easy solution to return to surplus, even though it clearly would not have been for that purpose. It was a mute point that the Government had been widely criticized for not heeding many of the recommendations of the Henry Review, namely from those critics who sit on the opposition benches.
I was opposed to the introduction of the GST and the manner in which the Howard Government hoisted it upon us, as many people were. But it is with us, and despite its obvious flaws it nonetheless could unwittingly be the vehicle that will be used to overhaul the inequalities of the current tax system. However, this was unlikely to happen because of the negativity around the GST during the last election campaign and the Government’s reluctance to pursue the matter, particularly as it is in the minds of the electorate that the Labor Government has been painted as the party most likely to raise the GST if it ever were to be raised.
Fast forward to 2013 and Tony Abbott’s budget reply speech and this widely unpublicised comment:
We will finish the job that the Henry review started and this government squibbed.
Now, didn’t the Henry Review recommend an increase in the GST? Rupert, your papers were in a frenzy the last time an increase was put in the public sphere and the outrage against the Gillard Government was carefully nurtured.
Where is the outrage now?
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