Tax, Turnbull & Shorten
No, it’s not particularly sexy, but Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten are beefing up their talk on tax ahead of budget time in May.
In an interview with the 730 Report on Monday, Turnbull vaguely discussed his plans to provide a tax cut to middle class Australians, but his stronger focus is on the tax cuts to business, which he says will stimulate the economy and create more jobs. This particular cut has been contentious and is strongly opposed by the Labor Party. (In the same interview, Turnbull talked about Australia officially being exempt from Trump’s taxes on steel and aluminium imports, a concern raised in last week’s summary.)
Shorten, meanwhile, stumbled this week. He began by promising a policy to end cash refunds on excess imputation credits for individuals and super funds. Apparently, that’ll save $11.4 billion. Don’t understand? Me neither.
Right, so – you’re a shareholder in a company. The company makes a profit. They pay tax. They then share that money around to their shareholders in the form of dividends. But technically, those dividends have already been taxed – the company has paid the tax. So the shareholders end up with a ‘franking credit’ against their own tax. That’s a dividend imputation. In 2000, the government made the system more generous by allowing shareholders to claim a cash refund if they received more franking credits than they owed in tax. The annoying thing for the government is that super is tax free for people over 60, so high-income retirees can use franking credits to get sweet cash refunds. That creates a hole in the government’s pocket. So Shorten’s called it welfare for millionaires.
There was a backlash. It depends on whose mathematics you believe, but the policy could severely affect pensioners who are a long way off from being millionaires, particularly those who are in a self-managed superfund. Shorten didn’t back down, promising that the cut back would allow for larger tax cuts in the future.
If this all leaves your head spinning, and you have no idea how superannuation works, I recommend taking a look at the The Barefoot Investor. It’ll change your life.
Dutton Strikes Again
Immigration Minister and Slow News Weekly favourite Petter Dutton is facing fresh criticism over his approach to white South African farmers. Dutton has offered to fast-track their visas, saying they “deserve special attention” due to the “horrific circumstances” of violence and land seizures.
Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s new president, is trying to redistribute South African farmland to black South Africans. The policy has reportedly led to the murders of white South African farmers as reported in some Australian tabloid papers (the Courier-Mail and the Daily Telegraph). But there are a vast number of sources that say these rumours are untrue, or over-stated. The South African government has criticised Dutton’s comments. A spokesperson for international relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has said: “There is no need to fear … we want to say to the world that we are engaged in a process of land redistribution which is very important to address the imbalances of the past. But it is going to be done legally, and with due consideration of the economic impact and impact on individuals.”
It comes in the same week that the Australian Border Force raided the home of a Sri Lankan family seeking asylum in Biloela. The raid came just one day after their visa had expired, even though a legitimate court process was under way to secure a longer stay. The community has rallied behind the family, who have become an integral part of the town. The father works at the local meat works, and the mother cares for the two very small children. The Department of Home Affairs stands by their actions – “Foreign nationals who do not hold a valid visa and who have exhausted all outstanding avenues to remain in Australia are expected to depart voluntarily to their country of citizenship. Those unwilling to depart voluntarily will be subject to detention and removal from Australia.” As recently as December last year, Australia has faced criticism from the United Nations over it’s repeated rejection of Sri Lankan refugees.
Dutton’s latest favourability towards white South Africans has been regarded by many on the left as blatant racism.
SA Elections
South Australia is off to the polls over the weekend. It’ll be one to watch. Labor has been in charge there since 2002 – and they’ve been a substantial thorn in the side of the Abbott and Turnbull governments on electricity and energy policy. The waters are muddied this time around thanks to the SA Best Party and the Nick Xenophon Party, both of whom are likely to see some swings. Stay tuned.
British & Russia Spy Death
There’s been a story building over the last couple of weeks that reads as though it’s been lifted from a John le Carrè novel. Sergei V. Skripal and his daughter were found unresponsive on a bench in the middle of Salisbury, England. Skripal was a former Russian spy, imprisoned in 2006 for selling Russian secrets to the British. He was part of a spy swap in 2010 and sent back to Britain. He was poisoned (but remains in critical care) using an exotic nerve agent that was developed by the former Soviet Union. It has echoes of similar attacks against spy-turned-Putin-critics on English soil. British Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday expelled 23 Russian diplomats from the UK, raising tensions further between the two countries. She added that no British ministers or royals would attend the World Cup in Russia, and they’ve suspended all high-level contracts with Russia. The investigation into the poisoning is widening.
Stephen Hawking
Celebrated scientific genius and general inspiration Stephen Hawking has passed away at the age of 76. He is internationally regarded as the most publicly recognisable scientist since Albert Einstein. He now walks amongst the stars that he spent his life studying.

If you like this blog, share it around. Have a fantastic weekend.

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And thanks, as always to Jennifer McDonald, who proofs these posts and makes sure I’m making some kind of sense. You can read Jen’s blog here.

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