WA Business News played host to a wide range of business people and the leading State Government figures on the issue of taxes and charges imposed in Western Australia.
It may seem obvious but the debate really showed how differently business and government really think.
There was one point of agreement, though – everyone wants the other side to show leadership.
Business, for instance, wants brave politicians who are willing to tackle this big and growing problem – the impost on almost everything, including employing people, to service growing spending by government.
Politicians, on the other hand, want business to show vocal support for them when they are challenged by other interest groups demanding more expenditure.
But I reckon both are wary of treading this line. Business doesn’t like to get involved in social issues because that is what elected parliamentarians are there for and the politicians fear an electoral backlash for taking short-term pain for long-term gain.
Another interesting point to come out of the debate was how deceiving much of the banter and headlines have been on this issue.
When the heat was really on this subject around budget time, the issue being thrown at the WA Government was how WA taxes and charges were the highest in the land (a similar comparison argument to that being played out in the police, nurses and politicians pay wrangle).
But when pressed on this issue during our session, business backed away from comparisons with other States.
Taxes, it seems, are a universal problem. They are simply too high, full stop.
While I agree with that notion or, to paraphrase Lyndon Rowe, business knows where best to spend its own money, it might be helpful for business to formulate some form of level that is acceptable.
Regarding Federal taxes, for instance, I have always felt that 30 per cent peak tax for individuals and companies would be acceptable, while 25 per cent would be a great goal to drive for.
So what rate of State business taxes and charges would be acceptable? If business can give Government a target in that regard we might shift the momentum from its current course upwards to the direction we all want – downwards.
A BIG issue confronting the State Government is the spiralling cost of health.
Treasurer Eric Ripper reckons it will account for about 35 per cent of the State budget by the end of the decade.
This makes health a business issue.
More than one third of those taxes and charges paid for by business will be spent on health as our population ages and the expectations of patients rises with technologically-driven medical breakthroughs.
Perhaps it’s time for people to start paying for their medicine rather than business?
We pay to park our cars, register our companies (a little more soon, I note), buy and sell land, even to educate our children at State schools – yet much of the cost of health is borne by the public purse.
British visa ruling
NOW, on to one of my favourite subjects: migration.
The British have relaxed their working holiday visas to attract older and more skilled Australians into their country.
It is time we moved to reciprocate.
Young, well-educated Brits (and people from a host of leading nations) come with so much to offer, yet we are overly restrictive in what they can do in this country and how long they can do it for.
These are people we should be welcoming with open arms, poaching the most talented from the world’s global centres, like London.
The more they come here, the more we can offer the best of them a chance to stay. If they don’t stay, the ones who have put down roots here will take home a better understanding of Australia, its people and its products – which is all the better for future business.
Buying interstate business
I WAS pleased to see the State Government entering into an arrangement to stop the poaching of major business and events between the different States. There are times when Australians must work together to win business, not slug it out State by State to a point where there is little profit left in it.
Pride and prestige belong on the sporting field not in the battle to win the event.
There are also huge issues regarding the value that this sort of competition offers for existing businesses.
I have heard many complaints about tax breaks and incentives used to lure business to one State or another.
Many would prefer their own taxes lowered than to see a major company receive yet another leg up from government.
Are pollies paid too much?
IT’S a difficult question and one that brings many cliches to mind.
There’s the old "If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys" against "Doing it for the love of it".
There’s arguments in both. Parliamentarians take risks and are supposed to be held in high esteem, therefore they should be paid in line with their office. In addition, good pay removes the risk of corruption.
Then again, paying too much might create a fat cat environment where holding the perks is more important than representing the people.
Whatever, the case I do think politicians should be sensitive to the issues confronting their constituents.
Most people are finding their pay doesn’t go as far as it used to.
If politicians could fix that – the voters wouldn’t mind how much parliamentarians got paid.
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