ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: Don’t sign up to a shocking deal, community sector urges State and Territory leaders

11 December 2015

Councils of Social Service (COSS) across the country have rejected the effort at so-called tax ‘reform’ emerging from the Treasurer’s and Leaders meetings held over the past two days.

‘Of all the packages and reform proposals on the table over the past six months, this attempt at a deal has picked up their worst elements,’ said Susan Helyar, Director of the ACT Council of Social Service.

‘The purpose of tax is to raise revenue for social investment in the supports and services that enable a productive economy. The only way to reduce demand for services is to reduce inequality and increase access to jobs. The current proposals would increase inequality in the ACT and do nothing for growth.

‘With the release of NATSEM modelling that finds proposed changes to the GST would disproportionately impact people on low incomes, we oppose increasing or expanding the GST and we urge the Chief Minister to keep the needs of Canberrans on low and moderate incomes in mind in formulating his position on tax reform.

‘Tax reform worthy of the name should pay for the essential services the community needs and expects, in a way that’s fair and causes the least harm to the economy.

‘The best test for reform of taxes and spending is not whether it serves the interests of governments but whether it serves the community.

‘The argument that growing costs in health, education and community services can either be curbed with a dose of “competition” or funded through higher economic growth is naïve at best, dangerous at worst. Public health care costs alone are rising over the long term in all wealthy countries and will rise further in the ACT, with a rapidly ageing population.

‘There are still serious gaps in essential services such as early childhood, affordable housing and dental and mental health, which hold back participation and productivity.

‘The “deal” on tax and federalism reform is far from done,’ Ms Helyar said.

‘Federal, State and Territory governments have agreed to consider changes along these lines. Before this proposal is considered any further, the people of the ACT are entitled to know the tax reform package will deliver the following:

  1. An overall package that is not based on a regressive switch from income tax to consumption taxes including the GST (which shifts taxation from high income earners to low income earners without providing any guarantee that essential services will be available to those who need them)
  2. Guaranteed and sufficient revenue to ensure access to quality services, with tied grants remaining in place (tied grants provide at least some guarantee of access to services for people across Australia)
  3. Tax reform that effectively tackles continuing tax shelters Federally and enables States and Territories to shift towards more efficient tax bases.’

For more information or comment please contact
Susan Helyar, Director, on 0448 791 987 or 02 6202 7200.

Related document: Fit for purpose: a federation that guarantees the services people need: A framework for reform from ACOSS and State and Territory Councils of Social Service