“More tax is not the answer.” This was an actual statement made by Treasurer Scott Morrison on August 24 in response to a proposal from the Western Australian Nationals for a mining tax on Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.
I actually had to check multiple sources to make sure the treasurer really did say that because on August 25 — which those who can read a calendar will note is the very next day — the same Scott Morrison said Australians face a “new divide” between “the taxed and the taxed-nots”, raising the prospect of a generation of welfare recipients who will apparently grow up paying no tax.
It really is amazing what a decent night's sleep will do for your perspective on the question of taxation in relation to budgetary revenue shortfalls.
Always assuming, of course, that it really was the same Scott Morrison, unless he was abducted by aliens who replaced him with a very clever body double. Or else possibly the Coalition government has cloned the treasurer and has a whole host of alternating ScoMos it brings out to argue various contradictory positions thereby preventing any individual ScoMo from getting too confused.
But let us assume it was the same Scott Morrison. This Scott Morrison — if that really is his name and he is not an impostor possibly working as an agent for the Chinese — said, in what The Australian called “a dire warning about the action needed to prevent deeper deficits and an economic crisis”, that this state of affairs was in urgent need of change.
The ability to change one's mind is a famously admirable one — although less tends to be said about the ability of a nation to swallow being told to tighten its belt by a man who celebrated a federal budget that savaged welfare recipients by throwing a $12,000 tax-payer funded dinner.
Of course, what with social media being filled with cynics and lefty lynch mobs, it didn't take long for all the usual suspects — which seems to be anyone with a brain and a social media account — to start pointing out a rather obvious hypocrisy: the hundreds of multinationals who pay zero tax.
In fact, there are 54 millionaires and 675 corporations who pay no tax at all, according to GetUp!
You might think Morrison could even start by hitting up his boss and Cabinet colleague Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is worth more than $100 million, and suggest maybe he doesn't keep stuffing so much of his cash in a Cayman Island tax haven.
But no, Morrison is mostly worried about welfare recipients, which does make sense as they are, after all, the ones with all the cash. You know, compared to government ministers and large mining corporations.
But those focusing on this supposed hypocrisy are missing the real story of a profound and rather moving ideological conversion on behalf of our treasurer — and indeed the entire Coalition government of which he is but a representative.
Here, after all, is a government that was first elected in 2013 on the back of shouting endlessly about the urgent need to “AXE THE TAX!!!” The key tax in question that needed AXING was the carbon tax. And quickly, as this tax was even threatening to wipe out the South Australian steel-producing town of Whyalla, as then-opposition leader Tony Abbott famously warned in 2012.
True, the actual wipe out of Whyalla looms this year, two years after the carbon tax was abolished, with steelmaker Arrium calling in administrators in April and placing thousands of jobs at risk. It's almost as if allowing companies to continue polluting in the name of “jobs” is just a cover for letting them gouge as much profit as possible before destroying jobs regardless, in a cynical bid to maximise ever-diminishing bottom lines.
And these job losses are happening despite the Coalition also abolishing the infamous “job killing” mining tax.
But let that not detract from the fact that a willingness to change one's mind is a great wisdom. It is big to admit you are wrong, especially when it means you will simply have no choice but to kick the poorest even harder.
[Carlo Sands is performing at the Sydney Green Left Weekly comedy night, Please Explain: Halal Certified Comedy on October 8 at Leichhardt Town Hall. the event features Pauline Pantsdown and more, book here.]