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Taxing times

IT’S a bit of a recurrent theme (some might say nightmare), but this column again ventures into that most fruitful of subjects – tax.

And, without wanting to deliberately tap into general discontent, we’ll return to that dreaded premium property tax.

This time it’s the turn of the Libs in Canberra to be chastised.

And it all comes down to the sales message used to flog John Howard’s unpopular GST.

The key point is that we were told the GST was intended to replace, among other things, a whole raft of State taxes.

The States were supposed to get money from the Federal Govern-ment in return for giving up this revenue stream.

The main target was a bunch of indirect taxes, such as those on financial transactions.

The old land tax was not replaced and was never meant to be after food was removed from the agenda and the GST was watered down.

But the new land tax reveals a flaw in the GST agreement – that State Governments are basically free to reintroduce taxes that were removed with the GST’s arrival.

Or maybe that isn’t a flaw. Few governments give up the right to tax whatever they want. Why would we have believed it to be different this time?

The main event

THE federal election campaign has entered its final phase – and it all comes at a very bad time.

Or does it?

Typically, business closes down in terms of decision making during the month or so of electioneering and probably for a few weeks after too.

Normally, I would suggest that calling an election in a downturn is just thoughtless.

But under the current circumstances, it has probably been for the best.

The election, with all its ridiculous promises, silly stunts and embarrassing gaffs, might provide something of a breather from all the doom and gloom.

Let’s face it, post September 11, this period was likely to be a bit of a write-off.

Better to get on with the biggest show in town while nothing else is happening.

That leaves business to concentrate on the vital Christmas trading period, a time when consumers might just pop their heads up after several weeks of being told who to vote for.

By the way, at this stage my money is on John Howard.

New look

During the past month we launched three new-look sections and provided a four-page liftout on total shareholder value in conjunction with corporate adviser Trudo.

It was a hectic period at Business News and nothing undertaken at that pace is without its headaches and teething troubles.

We believe, though, that For the Record, Investor and Gusto give the reader something more than we were offering before, without diminishing our core diet of weekly news on issues concerning WA business.

I invite you to take a look at these new parts of our newspaper, soak up some of the remarkable detail we now offer and let us know if there is something else you want to see.

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