New Policy Centre Encourages Australia to Look Abroad for Tax Reform
8 March 2019 at 5:56 pm
Progressive think-tank The Australia Institute has established a new policy centre in a bid to learn lessons from Nordic countries, to re-shape economic and social policy in Australia.
The Nordic Policy Centre, established in partnership with Deakin University, launched on Thursday with the aim of looking into how to flip the debate around tax revenue streams to fund the kind of community Australians want to see.
Deakin University Professor Andrew Scott, who authored the centre’s first piece of research, said the repeated claims by the government that Australian taxpayers are paying higher overall rates of tax in the global context was false and misleading.
“For example, Norway’s social security contribution component of taxation paid by employers is more than 6 per cent of GDP. In Australia 6 per cent of GDP would be just over $100 billion extra per annum,” Scott said.
“The direct contribution made by employers in Nordic nations to more extensive paid parental leave, skills training opportunities, and adequate income support for the unemployed, brings benefits back to employers in the form of retention of a high-skilled, well-motivated workforce with greater work-life balance.”
Ben Oquist, executive director of The Australia Institute, said many of the country’s social problems may be coming from the fact Australia has such a low tax rate.
“Tax is the price we pay to live in a civilised society, but in contemporary Australia we rarely ask how much civilisation we would like to buy, and what are the best new ways we could fund it,” Oquist said.
“We need to talk about revenue. After decades of spending cuts, efficiency dividends, and budget emergencies it is time to confront the fact that many of Australia’s problems, both real and imagined, flow directly from the fact that we have chosen to be one of the lowest taxing countries in the developed world.”
Rod Campbell, research director of The Australia Institute, told Pro Bono News Australia needed to think outside the square when looking overseas for policy inspiration. Something he hoped the policy centre would be able to encourage.
“You’ll find comparisons either to English speaking countries that we’re familiar with or our neighbours in Asia, but if you combine the Nordic countries, they’ve got a similar population to Australia, and they are not as ethnically homogeneous as you would think,” Campbell said.
“So it’s about encouraging Australian policy debate to look in a new area for inspiration and comparison, because Nordic countries consistently top all indicators in terms of equality.”
He added it would also show community organisations how social, and welfare programs were being managed in Nordic countries, and bring new ideas to the table.
“For community organisations who are looking at improving parental leave or childcare services, aged care services, there will hopefully be a new dimension of examples that we can learn from, or do completely differently,” he said.
The centre said it would carry out more research, engage with stakeholders and and host events in a bid to widen the Australian policy debate to include Nordic solutions.