While much of the nation confronts an incessant meth problem, our major political parties struggle with a different kind of addiction – splashing public cash, then demanding more.
With even an ostensibly ‘right-wing’ Liberal government proposing hikes to the Medicare levy and a major banking tax which most of us will end up paying for, the new mantra seems to be ‘tax it because we can’ rather than ‘tax it because we should’.
All of this while extravagant spending sees our $500 billion public debt continue to balloon. It is a cancer which has spread through both government and opposition as well as through federal, state – and now even local governments.
The latest hare-brained scheme comes from the masterminds of the New South Wales ALP. At a recent conference, the party voted for a new tax on visitors and holidaymakers, to be levied by local councils. The motion was put forward by the Byron Bay branch as well as two Byron Bay Shire Labor councillors who wanted to trial it in their own LGA.
The idea of implementing something like this in Byron Bay and similar council areas is ridiculous for a number of reasons.
Employment in Byron Shire, like many regional tourist spots, relies on visitors – over 5000 of the area’s 14,000 jobs in fact. Attacking visitors by slugging new taxes, will influence their decisions and put Byron Bay’s small businesses and their workers at risk. Around a third of Byron Bay’s population are also welfare recipients and the change will hurt their chances of transitioning to employment.
The idea that visitors don’t pay their fair share is also ludicrous. Visitors have already paid the council over $4,000,000 in parking fees and another $500,000 in ticket levies the Shire has imposed on music festivals including Splendour in the Grass and the Falls festival. These events alone account for over 195 full-time jobs at a time when rural and regional economies nationwide are struggling.
But the real kicker to all this is that Byron Bay Shire isn’t exactly the ideal candidate for ‘cash-strapped council’. The Shire has seen a significant increase in rate revenue due to rising property values which have gone up 19 per cent last year alone. The council also plans to increase rates by 33.5 per cent over the next four years. One wonders whether Byron Bay’s issues really stem from a revenue problem. It doesn’t help that the council has repeatedly turned down development applications for holiday and apartment developments which could have broadened its revenue base even further. Why should visitors – local or foreign – pay for these strategic failures?
NSW Labor wants to expand the new tax through councils state-wide after the planned trial. Of course, all these plans are contingent on the party returning to government in New South Wales. With ideas like this, that won’t be happening anytime soon.
Satyajeet Marar is Director of Policy at the Australian Taxpayers Alliance.
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