There’s a tax summit on. It’s not every day – or even every year – that people with expert knowledge and/or self-interest to promote get together and talk about ways to improve our tax system. And it’s quite interesting.
Well, it would be if journalists reported the good stuff. And by good stuff, I don’t mean the one-liners.
Check out today’s page 7 of today’s Sydney Morning Herald. The story about the Turkish army eating fresh food on the battlefield in 1915, and another about a suburb in Turnbull’s electorate that was one of 31 being considered for an NBN test site but missed out and he’s not too bothered about that, are on page 5. Make of that what you will. But there it is, in Big Important Letters, TAX SUUUUMMMMIIIT:
Three articles and one picture. Oh, and five pull quotes that don’t tell us a single thing about the ideas being discussed. Like this one from Tony Abbott:
It looks like just another pointless talkfest from an embarrassingly incompetent government.
Really, Abbott? That’s all you’ve got to offer a meeting about changing Australia’s tax system? What a lightweight.
Anyway, the stories:
At the top of the page we have this from Clancy Yeates: Unions and business clash on best economic strategy:
THE ACTU has challenged business groups to justify calls for further company tax cuts, sparking a row over how to manage the resources boom.
The union body was one of a few parties that openly opposed company tax cuts at yesterday’s tax forum, after business groups said Australia’s 30 per cent company tax rate was high compared with those overseas.
It’s 574 words, mainly “he said, he said” about who is arguing for and against company tax, but it does include a few sentences on some of the other ideas discussed during the day.
Then we have the funny from Jacqueline Maley: Sit up straight and stifle the yawns, you can hear the dandruff falling.
There are jokes about tax professionals sharpening their pencils, Canberrans locking up their daughters, and extra strong coffee and bright lights to stop people falling asleep. I can only assume that by “people” she means political journalists covering a meeting about a subject they know very little about. As a result, their audience won’t learn a single useful thing from their coverage. This is not the journalists’ fault, by the way. Editors, I’m looking straight at you for sending the wrong people to cover the summit. And if you did send your tax journos and business journos and money journos, then put their stories in the main news section where most people will get their news. Because what’s a newspaper for if it’s not to inform your audience about what is happening in their world?
But the Tax Forum 2011 was not the government’s idea. It was imposed on the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, by the independent MP, Rob Oakeshott, as a condition of his support for a Labor government.
And so, as with other parts of Labor’s agenda – notably the carbon tax and its pokie reforms – the poor, dear tax forum was overshadowed by the perception that it was just another thing Julia Gillard was forced to do to retain power.
No, it’s called a minority government, and in minority goverments everyone who formed government gets a say. Why don’t journalists get this very simple idea? Oh, that’s right, because it’s not very good for headlines, one-liners, asking the PM and the Foreign Minister the same question over and over again, and generally pretending that they are political insiders.
Maley’s piece is 453 words.
Then we have a piece by Peter Martin labelled “analysis” in the paper and “analysis” and “opinion” online, but it is quite obviously neither: More revenue, fewer loopholes, is the consensus but what happened to the biffo?.
It’s simply “he said, he said and then this happened” without any analysis. And then there’s this bit:
Australian Industry Group chief executive, Heather Ridout, who sat on the Henry review with Dr Henry, described her “education” during the process when it became clear to her payroll tax – which she had always disliked – fell on consumers and workers rather than her members.
Oh noes, the head of the AIG doesn’t like payroll tax but, thankfully, her members have found a way to punish their employees and consumers for a tax that they are legally required to pay. Saying “we pass it on” is not a good argument for abolishing a tax. (Note: I know nothing about payroll tax, but I know a lot about self-serving bullshit when I see it.)
Martin’s piece is 435 words. That’s less than the funny.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Maley is often a funny writer and there is room for the funny. And I think there is room for analysis and comment on big issues. But this is a NEWSpaper, so where’s the fucking news?