Sometimes, for this old Laborite, this government just keeps on giving. If my amusement is part of my age of entitlement, then go you good thing!
Was it Hockey and Cormann who said there are lifters and leaners? Was it these ministers and their assistant ministers who said we should all pay our way, share in the pain?
Well now…let’s look at this year’s budget, since we can’t sleep well. The PM promised that the budget would be so ho hum that we would find it boring. I read this as meaning the budget would be an aid to combatting sleeplessness. Maybe not though!
I must put my credentials on the table to explain why I would pass over the complete works of William Shakespeare and my collection of Robert Ludlum novels for the budget. I must explain why I preferred the budget over the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
The budget often contains little pearls amongst the swine droppings!
When I was in the public service in the last century, parts of my jobs were to write the blurbs you see in the budget papers, and when I was in the assembly, I took a perverse pleasure in being one of the few in that august chamber who could actually read, let alone write, budget papers. My time on the estimates committees (many, many hours and time I won’t get back in my life) was spent trolling through the pages looking for little bits of bait for the unwary minister appearing before my committee.
Back to the budget papers. So the leaners were double dipping into the paid parental leave (PPL) coffers were they? The spokespersons were all saying, with the insinuation that women were doing sneaky, underhand and greedy thievery from public coffers. How embarrassment! Minister Cormann and Assistant Minister Freydenberg were sprung because their wives had received employer-based and government-based PPL! The lifters were doing some leaning.
Their excuse/reason? It is a currently legal entitlement! I reckon their salaries and those of the wives, professionals both, were such that dipping into taxpayers’ pockets was not necessary to survive. Double dip, backflip and pike!
But hey, I got that from the media. But also, the curious in me went for a meander through the budget papers. I didn’t have to look far to find a little passage which gave me an insight into why the age of entitlement is over for us but not for them.
So now we all have to pay to park when we go to work, right? I even have to pay when I do my community stuff. The hoo hah over parking in the parliamentary triangle was front page news. But do all the workers in the Big House have to pay for their parking? It appears not!
Don’t get this wrong though. Ministers get dropped off at the door by Commonwealth cars so parking is an academic question for them. But is it for their staff? And is it for the non-executive MPs?
The thing is that if an employer pays the parking, it attracts fringe benefits tax. One can get an idea of how much pay parking is supplemented by the amount of fringe benefits tax paid.
In the supplementary budget last year, funds were provided to pay fringe benefits tax on parking in the Parliament House precinct but the amount escaped scrutiny. Pay parking came in during April 2015, so supplementation was needed for the period April to June 2015. But what of the post June period?
Here’s how it appears in the budget papers (and this is a direct take):
Portfolio Budget Statement 2015-2016
DEPARTMENT OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Section 1: Departmental overview and resources
1.1 STRATEGIC DIRECTION STATEMENT
“From 1 April 2015, as a result of the implementation of paid parking within the Parliamentary triangle, the Department is liable for the payment of Fringe Benefit Tax for employees who access the private car parks at Parliament House. The balance of the additional funding through the budget ($0.828m) will meet the liability from 1 July 2015”
Now, I understand from this that staff who are paid from the coffers of the House of Reps have their parking costs paid by the department and incur an FBT of $828,000 per year. The budget also puts this into the base of the department because there is no extraction in the out years to terminate the arrangement. Hmmmm…
Who is paid by the House of Reps? The clerk and his/her office, attendants, security guards, committee staff, cleaners, pollies and their staff. I don’t know if I have them all but it is the last two that I draw your attention to. They all share in the largesse covered by this FBT. And if some of them are contractors, the share of this fringe benefits tax for non-contractors is even larger.
So let me get this straight and correct me if I’m wrong. Most public servants have to pay for parking in the parliamentary triangle but members of the House of Representatives and their staff don’t. The ordinary taxpayer, who does pay the parking, picks up the fringe benefits tax tab as well as the loss in revenue.
$828,000 is a lot of fringe benefits tax thus it is a lot of paid parking foregone.
One rule for some and another rule for others? I thought the age of entitlement had gone. Not so it appears!