Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sunday dollars&sense: Don't kid yourself. They're bribes.

Nothing in this election is a straight-out bribe. Heaven forbid. The Coalition’s $34 billion tax cut is designed to “get Australians into work”. Of course.

Labor’s $750 per annum tax rebate paid to the parents of children in secondary school who get the family tax benefit and spend money on computing is about “investing in the education of our children”. No doubt.

Others might say that Labor’s payment is largely a handout to parents who already own a computer and use the internet on dressed up as a program to help children being left behind.

I said so to Kevin Rudd on Friday...

...asking him whether it was true that most working families already had the internet on.

“I'm not quite sure what universe you are inhabiting," he replied.

“Where we come from, the People's Republic of Queensland, it is different. There is a digital divide and it's not just Queensland, it is right across the country.”

“We need to breach it and let me tell you, this takes bold measures to do so and $2.3 billion worth of investment is our step in the right direction.”

It would be a much bigger step if it the money was actually directed at those children on the wrong side of the divide.

I am thinking similar thoughts about the tax breaks designed to get us into work.
Personally I don’t know anyone staying at home rather than working because the tax rate is too high. Perhaps it is the “universe I inahbit”.

I do know of people who would like to work but can’t find an employer to take them on because the employer (wrongly) thinks they are too old. I do know of mothers who find it hard to return to work because they can’t get childcare, but in all of the discussions I’ve had with people who are not in work I can’t remember any mentioning the tax rate.

Perhaps it’s the sort of thing that they wouldn’t mention, not wishing to seem greedy. I am particualrly fascinated by the idea that high income earners, capable of getting more than $180,000 a year, are holding back and staying at home because the top marginal rate is 45 per cent rather than 40 per cent.

Or perhaps they are not putting in as many hours as they would if the tax rate was lower. Although all of the executives and plumbers that I know work insane hours.

Or perhaps both policies are bribes, dressed up to sound as if they are something more.