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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Now Hockey says he wanted to tax the rich all along

Now he tells us.

Hockey wanted to wind back super tax concessions all along.

"We should be wiser and more consistent on tax concessions," the former treasurer told Parliament in his farewell speech. "In particular, tax concessions on superannuation should be carefully pared back."

It wasn't what he said while he had the job.

When Labor put forward rather mild measures that would have reduced super tax concessions Hockey said only Labor wanted "to introduce new taxes and have new changes on superannuation".

"The last thing you would want to do to people relying on investment income is to hit them with a new tax," he said.

All Labor wanted was to ensure that retirees getting more than $75,000 a year in super actually paid tax, at a rate of 15 per cent. And it wanted to more highly tax super contributions, but only for Australians earning more than $250,000.

Until Labor came forward with these most inoffensive of suggestions, Hockey had indeed spoken quietly about doing something about super tax concessions. But as soon as Labor offered support, he and the rest of the Coalition backtracked as fast as they could.

He now says he wanted to re-skew negative gearing toward new housing so there was an "incentive to add to the housing stock rather than an incentive to speculate on existing property".

Again, it's not what he said at the time. In July he attacked Labor's never-announced proposal to do something just like that, saying it would create "an exception to a standing rule in taxation law, and that is that you can deduct the cost of, or the losses, against, another form of income".

In his valedictory speech he said he had endeavoured "and failed" to keep all tax options on the table. It was an admission that he had wanted to do the right thing but lacked the strength to follow through.

Who knows? Eventually he might have found it. But how long would we have had to wait?

In The Age and Sydney Morning Herald