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Tax cuts? This year? Don’t be fooled. Or: why everyone should employ a tax adviser. A budget (derived from the old French word bougette, meaning ‘little bag’, or purse) is “a quantified financial plan for a forthcoming accounting period...a budget is an organisational plan stated in monetary terms.” (Wikipedia). So last week’s Federal Budget should have been an accounting of where we’ve been, fiscally, and a statement of where the Federal Government would like Australia to go over the next 12 months, and what the Government thinks it will cost us. It was neither.
I say us, because the bulk of its income comes out of our individual pockets. If you are a staff member of a large organisation, such as government, it will come out of your salary package, an instrument designed to reduce your contribution to income tax, by allowing you to make certain personal expenditures from your wages before they go into your pocket, on the way to which, they are taxed.
Salary packaging is an arrangement between you and your employer, if you are lucky enough to have one, where you pay for some items or services straight from your pre-tax salary. You can salary package computers, cars, childcare and superannuation. This can reduce your taxable income and put more money in your pocket. This has always seemed to me to be unfair, because it’s not available to every taxpayer. It’s a way of reducing the tax you pay, and therefore diminishing your contribution to the national good. I mention salary sacrificing to show how the taxation system, the rent you pay for all the advantages that accrue from living in Australia, can be manipulated to suit your own purposes. Income tax in Australia is imposed by the Federal Government on the taxable income of individuals and entities like trusts and corporations. You can legally avoid tax, but you cannot evade it. This subtle distinction can be worked to individual advantage. Kerry Packer, Australia’s richest man at one time, once told a Senate Enquiry that he paid no tax. Such inequalities do not make for a happy, willingly contributing nation.
The government can’t simply take money from the Treasury by adopting a budget. Parliament must pass legislation, known as appropriation, passing the Budget and thus authorising the government to dip into the Treasury’s coffers. It is during debate on these bills that the Senate comes into its own. There is a convention that if the Government can’t negotiate its budget legislation, it has lost the confidence of the House, and must resign, or go to an election.
Thus Malcolm Fraser in 1975: “The Opposition now has no choice. We will use the power vested in us by the Constitution and delay the passage of the Government’s money bills through the Senate until the Parliament goes to the people.” But nobody in their right mind would wish for a re-run of The Dismissal. So the Budget will be passed, in whole or in part. It will remain for us, a large and unfathomable document, which a passive and perhaps deservedly long-suffering electorate will ignore, except for those parts of it which impinge directly on them. It will be temporarily a bone of contention for politicians, but for the most part it will be buried, to slowly corrode into irrelevance.
John Fleming II
A soggy end
My parents lived through the depression and second world war. Once the war was over most people held onto useful things in the home. If there might be a future use for an article it was not thrown out. If it was an electrical item that had carked it, any salvageable pieces were stored. The shed was probably the place of nightmares with strange objects we might never see again lined up like forgotten soldiers. My father’s shed was like this. As a child I would walk amongst the relics in his shed, making it resemble a museum at times. He even had a round fridge with lazy susan shelving for easy reach – one of only a handful ever made. The fridge was discontinued because it became like a round peg in a square hole. Customers preferred to use a corner space.
My father had jars lined up on a windowsill and each one was full to the brim with screws and nails. They were not new or sparkling but rather a dingy rusty colour of all shapes and sizes. I asked him why he had so many and he said he kept them in case he needed them for another project. My mother had a thousand and one plastic shopping bags stored, no doubt from the time they were invented. My father had told her not to throw them out because one day they would become extinct and he was right, but it took many years to happen and the poor old plastic bags were kept in a state of cobwebs, dust and mouse droppings. No good for any future use anyway.
Christmas decorations that had seen better days and tangled pieces of tinsel were gathered in a box just in case mum suddenly needed them. Pieces of wood lined the rafters. I doubt if they ever saw the light of day since they were placed there along with used sinks, broken toys and old paraphernalia. Then came the time of my parents’ deaths and it was left up to us to remove the leftovers of the treasured things that were stored for millenia. A skip bin provided their final resting place and it took weeks to rid the house of the ‘useful things that might come in handy one day’. My parents were clean and not really hoarders as such but it was the way they were brought up in needier times to never waste anything of use. Not so today with our throwaway society.
I have never considered myself as a hoarder but a parent of children who need to keep memories. After our recent flood I changed my mind. There were things kept in the shed that had no real reason to be there except to take up space. When Hobart and outer suburbs experienced a horrible night of flooding we were affected too but I changed the negative into a positive. It made me finally go through boxes of items that were saturated and I had the difficult task of removing anything that played no part in our future. I am truly amazed by what we hang onto thinking they are precious but in reality we put them aside to recall moments in our lives. Amongst the debris was rail tickets from somewhere or a stuffed toy that had seen better days. Christmas decorations water logged and smelly were strewn over the yard like some trail of an alien caterpillar. They naturally were sent straight to our throwout pile for a one way trip to the tip.
I must say though, there were a few tears for collectors items and antiques but it was time to finally say goodbye to them. Our place resembles a ghost town of garage sales right now with things still drying out, but we class ourselves as the lucky ones as we know others were far worse hit than us. We replaced boxes with plastic tubs so in the future the items can never be ruined. One day soon I should go through each one again and really ask myself what I want to keep. I now understand my parents need to hang onto what they did. There is a hoarder in each of us I guess.
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