Round 1: The certainties of life in View from the Arch

19/10/2007 - 19:05


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Benjamin Franklin said there were only two certainties in life, death and taxes. Both were on the political agenda in the first week of the six-week federal election campaign, with the leaders of both major political parties in campaign mode.

Round 1: The certainties of life in View from the Arch

Benjamin Franklin said there were only two certainties in life, death and taxes. Both were on the political agenda in the first week of the six-week federal election campaign, with the leaders of both major political parties in campaign mode.

This week Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd found time to make YouTube advertisements about the other's campaigning strategies, shudder in horror at The Chaser's choice of subject matter and shake their heads over the issue of drugs in sport.

They also, along with their wives, attended the funeral of Trooper David Pearce, the Australian soldier killed by a roadside bomb while driving a light armoured vehicle in Afghanistan's Oruzgan Province last Monday.

From reports, Mr Howard and Mr Rudd shook hands as they dealt, in their official capacitied, with one of the two certainties of life.

The second certainty had already been mentioned.

Taxation - Howard

Treasurer Peter Costello unexpectedly released the mid-year budget review on the first official day of campaigning, upgrading growth forecasts and allowing for tax cuts of $34 billion over three years.

The tax cuts would be through increases in the tax free threshold and the 15 per cent threshold, and cuts in the top two tax rates, he said.

Under the new plan, low income earners from the 2008-09 tax year would see their tax free threshold rise from $11,000 to $14,000.

The 30 per cent threshold would increase from $30,001 to $34,001 and the 40 per cent threshold would increase to $80,001.

The 45 per cent threshold would increase to $180,001 as previously announced in the budget.

From July 1, 2009, low income earners would be tax free up to $15,000, the 30 per cent threshold would increase to $35,001, the second top marginal rate would be cut from 40 per cent to 38 per cent and the top marginal rate would be cut from 45 per cent to 43 per cent.

From July 1, 2010 ,low income earners would be tax free to $16,000, the 30 per cent threshold would increase to $37,001, the second top marginal rate would be cut from 38 to 37 per cent and the top marginal rate would be cut from 43 per cent to 42 per cent.

Within five years the top rate would be 40 cents in the dollar.

Mr Costello said his proposed revamp of the tax system would maintain a healthy budget surplus.

"The announcement that I make today in relation to the tax plan keeps the budget in surplus above one per cent of GDP over the whole of the forward estimates - that is this year, next year, 2008-09, and the two projection years out to 2010-11," he said.

Taxation - Rudd

By contrast, Mr Rudd's changes to the system would allow for cuts of $31 billion over six years, otherwise matching the coalition's promise to cut the top marginal tax rate to 40 cents in the dollar by 2012-13.

The Labor leader said scrapping the coalition's planned tax cuts for people earning $180,000 or more would save $3 billion.

He unveiled a $2.3 billion plan to let families claim tax deductions for the costs of educating their children, including laptops, home computers and internet connections - but not school fees.

And $400 million would be spent on slashing elective surgery waiting lists.

The wealthiest Australians would pay $10 a week more tax under Labor than they would under the coalition to pay for the plan.

In addition to this, parents who currently receive Family tax benefit A would be eligible for a 50 per cent tax refund on the cost of educating their children, including laptops, home broadband connections and school textbooks.

"If mum and dad are spending money on buying a laptop, spending money on buying a home computer, spending money on ... purchasing internet connection, education software printers and books, those expenditures, (they) will be eligible to claim the 50 per cent education tax refund that we are putting forward," Mr Rudd said.

A further $200 million saved by scrapping the top tax cuts would go to the surplus, while $400 million would go to Labor's national health reform plan.

"We intend ... to establish through the use of other funds as well a plan which would create a national elective-surgery strategy to reduce waiting times across the nation," Mr Rudd said.

Opening gambits - Rudd

Earlier in the week, Mr Rudd opened his election pitch with a promise that he can deliver the "new leadership" he says the nation needs.

Speaking in his home town of Brisbane, Mr Rudd opened the six-week campaign by promising that Labor had the ideas and vision to lead the nation for the next three years and beyond.

"Our country has a future too full of promise to allow a government that's been in office for 11 years, a government that's lost touch, and a government that's gone stale, just to continue on."

He promised fresh policies throughout the campaign, particularly in areas such as education, climate change, communications and industrial relations.

"During the course of this campaign, I'll be outlining further fresh ideas, new policies and adding to the plan that we've already put out there for our countries future, not just for the next three years but the next five, the next 10 years and beyond," Mr Rudd said.

He addressed one of Labor's biggest challenges from the 2004 election - economic management.

"We are also putting forward carefully costed promises for this election campaign, all designed to put downward pressure on interest rates," Mr Rudd said.

"I will always say with pride that I am an economic conservative.

"I believe in budget surpluses, I believe in the independence of the Reserve Bank, I believe in its inflation targeting regime."

Opening Gambits - Howard

It goes without saying that maintaining a strong, prosperous economy is a core focus of the Prime Minister too, telling reporters on Sunday that voters would decide which party would best provide for the nation's future prosperity.

"I believe very passionately that this country's best years can lie ahead of us in the years immediately ahead," Mr Howard told reporters, after announcing a six-week election campaign.

"In order for that to happen this country does not need new leadership, it does not need old leadership, it needs the right leadership.

"The right leadership is the leadership which delivers the team which knows how to do the job.

"The right leadership is the leadership that has the experience to further expand the prosperity of the Australian economy and to ensure that everybody gets a fair share of it."

"The right leadership is the leadership that tells the Australian people where it stands on issues and what it believes in," Mr Howard said.

"Can I say, love me or loathe me, the Australian people know where I stand on all the major issues of importance to their future."

Entering his last election campaign, Mr Howard said he would spend the next six weeks outlining plans to reward hard work and ensure all Australians shared in the country's prosperity.

"It is the responsibility of the government, as well as the alternative government, to outline plans to ensure that people do get included and that people don't miss out," he said.

"The plans that I will unveil in detail in the weeks of the campaign will reward hard work, they'll create jobs and they'll provide even more incentive for working Australians."

Bits and Pieces

  • Mr Howard said he would aim for an unemployment rate below four per cent, seen between three and 3.5 per cent.

"There is no reason why Australia"s unemployment cannot have a three in front of it," he said.

  • Mr Rudd confirmed his committment to abolish Work Choices by 2012, and told reporters he was also committed to full employment

"The labour movement and the Labor Party always has been committed to full employment and when it comes to a unemployment number with a three in front of it, we believe that's a right goal for Australia too, " he said.

  • Mr Rudd also committed to revamping the Commonwealth's property disposals policy to ensure that surplus government land was given to the needs of housing and community development.

"What we would require is, each year, every commonwealth government department to come back to the minister for housing and say `here is the surplus land we have' and to show cause why it should not be released for housing development and wider community infrastructure development."

The commonwealth was sitting on $6 billion worth of land, Mr Rudd said.

  • Senator Nick Minchin later told ABC Radio that while the Commonwealth did own $6 billion worth of land, most of it was not for sale.

"He (Mr Rudd) is going to set up this huge new bureaucratic process where departments like defence are going to have to justify every piece of land they own every year," he said.

"We have been saying, contrary to Mr Rudd's criticism of our position, that land supply is a major factor in this issue and it is the state Labor governments that control land supply and control development and apply state taxes and charges to land supply."

  • Yesterday, Mr Rudd agreed to participate in the Howard-proposed debate in Parliament's Great Hall on Sunday, while maintaining his desire to have hold three - one in the week before polling day.


  • Local Government Elections for Western Australia will be held and called tomorrow.


The Final Word

In a week where Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile informed Dubbo radio listeners while reading out lost and found notices that a multicoloured pheasant has been found in nearby Warren, and Kevin Rudd almost got a nasty surprise when a Jack Russell terrier gave its owners a sudden need for plastic bags while on stage during campaign speeches in Adelaide, the final word goes to the Prime Minister.

The Liberal camp caused some consternation among journalists this week when it stipulated that the "worm" - a line showing audience approval levels used during debates - be absent from this Sunday's event.

The Age reports that, while in Brisbane, Mr Howard was asked whether he was afraid of the worm.

"I'm not scared of the worm," he said. "I love worms - they're very good for the garden."

Can't fault him on that one.



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