Stakeholders talk tax

ELECTION ‘promises’ often come back to haunt the politicians who make them and Geoff Gallop’s Labor Government has proved no exception.

A 2001 pre-election commitment to hold taxes steady has been blown away in three consecutive State budgets, in which there have been substantial increases in stamp duty, land tax and payroll tax.

And WA businesses are picking up the bulk of the tab.

While the Government has embarked on a program of tax reform, business is yet to enjoy the realisation of plans to abolish stamp duty on covering leases, cheques, transfer of listed shares and life insurance policies, with relevant legislation still working its way through parliament.

While the State Government cites unfair distribution of Federal grants and a rampant health budget as factors behind the increases, the business community is growing weary of the tax burden. State tax levels, therefore, appear set to become one of the big issues at the next election.

Last week, in an effort to gauge the business community’s views and ideas about States taxes, WA Business News convened a round table meeting with relevant business stakeholders, placing State Treasurer Eric Ripper in the hot seat to field the panel’s questions.

Issues raised during the two-hour meeting included overall government expenditure, the equity of the taxation system, the economic wisdom of the Mandurah railway, and whether revenue raising measures such as toll roads had been dismissed out of hand by the Government.

The treasurer highlighted the growing need for the business community to stand by the Government on public expenditure issues if it was to avoid increasing levels of State taxation.

He said business could play a pivotal role in shaping public debate not only with regard to government expenditure, but when lobby groups rallied for greater expenditure in different areas.

“If a government is left to stand alone in the field when those debates are on and the government loses those debates, then you know where the burden is going to fall,” Mr Ripper told the panel.

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