13 October 2020

Three decades' population growth needed in a year to fund Libs' election promises: Labor

| Dominic Giannini
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Canberra Liberals leader Alistair Coe has repeatedly said that lower rates and house prices will help grow Canberra’s economic pie. Photo: Region Media.

Around 230,000 people – more than 50 per cent of the current ACT population – would have to move to the Territory this financial year if the Canberra Liberals were to pay for their election promises using their ‘grow the pie’ model, according to ALP analysis.

At the current population projections, this population growth will be achieved just before 2050.

The Liberals have repeatedly said they would freeze rates but not cut any services, while also offering up more than $1 billion worth of election commitments.

These commitments are a combination of new expenditure and foregone revenue, but Chief Minister Andrew Barr has questioned where the money is coming from if the Liberals will not cut services.

The Liberals have avoided questions about borrowing more money – referring instead to “growing the pie”.

Opposition leader Alistair Coe has repeatedly claimed Canberrans are deserting the ACT in favour of cheaper housing in neighbouring Queanbeyan, Googong and Murrumbateman. He says the Liberals’ election commitments would be paid for by lowering the cost of living in Canberra and reducing house prices, enticing more people back to live in the ACT. This would then increase the ACT’s rates revenue.

Labor says the Liberals’ “economic pie” would need to increase by 115,000 households.

“The ACT currently has around 185,000 rate-paying households and a population of approximately 430,000 people,” Mr Barr said, adding that as of yesterday (23 September), the Liberals policy amounted to more than $1 billion of “unfunded election commitments”.

Broken down, these include:

The Liberals have also pledged to plant one million trees over the next decade, but have not costed the policy. The Government estimates it costs $380 per tree which includes five years of watering, maintenance and planting. However, the Liberals have said trees can be purchased for $20, and vouchers for kindergarteners to buy trees would also make up part of the pledge.

Labor has estimated the policy will cost around $300 million when accounting for some economy of scale considerations.

Mr Barr said relying on population growth to fund the Liberals’ election promises was unrealistic.

“If this was a realistic proposal rather than a Trump-like talking point, it would require an instant increase in the ACTs population of well over 100,000 rate-paying households – this could be in excess of 200,000 people or a 50 per cent population increase,” Mr Barr said.

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACT’s population was growing at a record 8,000 people a year. The pandemic has slowed international migration into Australia. It has also brought about the first recession in Australia in near 30 years.

“These are hardly the economic or social conditions for a period of unprecedented population and economic growth.”

Chief Minister Andrew Barr

The Liberals have well over a $1 billion in uncosted policies, Chief Minister Andrew Barr says. Photo: Region Media.

The average rates bill for a Canberran house is $2,647 while the average rates bill for an apartment is $1,352.

Using the rule of thumb that of every four new Canberrans, two move into a house and two move into an apartment, there would be 115,000 households paying $230 million in rates annually.

These figures do not take into account the current expected population growth of 23,000 people over the next four years, already calculated in the ACT Budget and forward estimates.

“The additional population would be required to move to the ACT from next year because the Liberal promises start from next year,” Mr Barr said.

“Where would more than 200,000 extra people live? Where would they work? Where would their kids go to school? Not to mention the extra demand pressure they would place on the health system. With additional population comes additional expenditure.”

While GST payments would grow, any increases in population would not come close to adjusting for the significant impacts of a reduced ACT GST share of about $739 million over the next four years, the analysis says.

These costings do not include the Liberals’ promise to abolish payroll tax, which is currently forecast to raise over $2.5 billion over the next four years.

The Liberals were asked if they had a target number of population growth or were prepared to borrow more to cover their election commitments.

A spokesperson told Region Media that “our fully funded plan to deliver lower taxes and better services is a key short-term stimulus measure to give a shot in the arm to households, local employers and the local economy”.

“We are taking on the advice of the Reserve Bank of Australia which recommended increased spending to stimulate the economy,” the Liberals’ spokesperson said.

At the time of publishing, the Liberals had not put any policies to ACT Treasury for costing.

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Surely growth is just growth: what downside could there be to that?
Everyone and almost everything is predicated on growth. Even the language used for growth is always positive.
I think they’re wrong.

Capital Retro2:33 pm 26 Sep 20

“Let’s assume 45k in 2020 (combined) and if hypothetically 100 per cent of them moved to the ACT and paid $3k in rates (assumed average) a year.”

Plus about $1 billion in stamp duty for the homes they buy.

HiddenDragon7:39 pm 25 Sep 20

The 2019-20 Budget Review released in February showed net Territory debt of $5bn by the end of that financial year – so even before the convenient excuse and distraction of the virus came along, the Territory would need to have grown its population to the level of SA to cover that debt, according to the argument now being run by ACT Labor.

The Economic and Fiscal Update released in August estimated that net Territory debt would rise to nearly $10bn. by the end of the 2023-24 financial year – so to cover that, the ACT Labor argument would suggest our population should grow to the size of WA.

If ACT Labor really mean what they are now saying about debt and deficits, they should not be promising anything which is not absolutely necessary and which would not be happening anyway, even in the absence of an election – but would still need to explain what they are going to do about rapidly growing debt in coming years. The implied argument that their levels of debt and deficit are “just right” (and anything more is reckless, and anything less would be a slash and burn apocalypse) is yet another example of arrogance and double standards.

Moreover, the ALP’s rates and charges are higher for Canberra residents than they would be for residents if they were residing in metropolitan Sydney. Go figure.

Stamp duties are a lot lower

Given the vast debt created by the ALP in Canberra is in the multi-billions, the claims about “Liberal debt” made here are spurious.

Given the vast debt created by the ALP is in the multi billions, their claims here about `Liberals debt’ are trite, to say the least.

You replied twice. Maybe your counting is as good as the liberals

Yep, this is obvious to anyone with even a modicum of intelligence. The Liberals are simply trying to buy the election with ridiculous promises.

Although the ALP can’t claim they are any better, their spending record is woeful.

None of these major parties (Greens too) have any sort of reasonable economic plan.

Dumb, dumber and dumbest, that’s what these parties look like.

Spot on chewy. Doesn’t matter who you pick, none of them have any resemblance of competency in terms of how to manage the budget.

But if people think the budge is a wipeout under a labor government, just wait to see what it looks like under the libs. Promising the world to everyone on the expenditure side, and giving away large chunks on the revenue side.

If there was some resemblance of a plan beyond the ‘magic pudding’ one might take them seriously, as in amongst the usual vote buying there is some reasonable policies. But its a fallacy to believe they can deliver ‘lower taxes’ alongside ‘better services’. But I guess ‘better services’ need not be mutually exclusive to ‘less services’ at the same time.

What a wicked pile of poo we have to choose from at this election.

actually you should have a look at the Greens economic plan – its actually pretty good 🙂

Capital Retro10:58 am 25 Sep 20

Services we had 20 years ago have disappeared or been diverted to pet-project causes so just restoration of lost services to the general community would be “better”.

I’ve read their plans which is why I added them to the list.

The Greens are promising to increase government spending massively on their pet projects, so where us the funding going to come from?

Increased taxation seems the only logical answer although they haven’t been specific about how the additional revenue would be generated.

Although it is pretty easy for them to make these sorts of outlandish promises with little detail, when they have no chance of actually being in power to implement them.

Capital Retro,
What specific services are you talking about?

Capital Retro7:07 am 26 Sep 20

We used to see the parks and gardens people in the suburbs regularly but since the financial black hole called the arboretum was created they are mostly there.

Line painting on roads used to be pro-active but these days one has to try and get through Access Canberra to get anything done.

The greens and pretty good economic plan are an oxymoron.

Capital Retro9:05 pm 24 Sep 20

“We are taking on the advice of the Reserve Bank of Australia which recommended increased spending to stimulate the economy,” the Liberals’ spokesperson said.

The RBA’s relentless pursuit of reducing interest rates to zero has wiped out the income of thousands of self-funded retirees concurrently with allowing Australian households to become the highest indebted in the world.

Definitely not the institution to be taking advice from.

please spare us the crocodile tears. In order to be a self funded retiree (ie get no pension) you would need to have assets for a single person of at least $583,000, and that doesn’t include the value of your house! you do realise that if your income drops – like everyone else you need to draw down your savings? when you drop below the assets test you will be entitled to a part pension

self funded retirees have never had it so good. If you have an accumulation super fund you get all the withdrawals tax free, having had massive tax advantages when you put the money in in the first place, Because you get your super tax free you only have a low taxable income so you would pay little or no tax on dividends and then the government (ie taxpayer) very generously gives you cash payments for franking credits. in addition just about every self funded retiree owns their own home, and so has no rent or mortgage payments (if they don’t they need to get some serious financial advice!).

so please quit you’re whining and spare a thought for others who are really struggling in this recession and who don’t have massive capital to draw down on

Capital Retro,
Why would zero interest rates have wiped out the incomes of self funded retirees?

No one is forcing anyone to invest solely in zero risk cash investments and any self funded retirees who does so is holding to a ridiculously cautious position.

Why should the government and regulators shape public policy based on objectively well off people who want to hold zero risk investments?

Capital Retro10:25 am 26 Sep 20

Why would anyone in retirement want to risk their nest egg in equities in the current environment? Have you not heard that there are predictions that half of all businesses in Australia will fail in the next 6 months? The knock-ons from this will be catastrophic for banks where a huge amount of superannuation is invested. Additionally, the massive investments that super funds have made in large office buildings and other rental based infrastructure will turn into loss making ones. You may not be aware of it but the ruling by the government to allow people affected by pandemic created unemployment to draw down up to $10K of their superannuation was huge problem for the Industry Super Funds because they had to liquidate investments at a bad time.

You may wish to explain in what way “the government and regulators shape public policy” to help the general population. Use the example of the RBA I have cited. How has this helped Australia?

In these times it pays to be ridiculously cautious.

Capital Retro12:59 pm 26 Sep 20

Wow. Instead of perhaps telling us all why advice and actions from the RBA has been good (hasn’t it?) you attack self-funded retirees who save the taxpayer about $50K a year for each fund member and as far as I am aware, non-taxable payments are only available when a SMSF is in pension mode. I am not aware of the the other allegations you make but generally, your rant appears to be straight from regular class warfare stuff published by the left-leaning Australia Institute or the baby-boomer hater Crispin Hull from the Canberra Times: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6919463/baby-boomers-must-give-the-younger-generation-a-tax-break/
PS: I don’t have massive capital to draw on and I have “struggled” through more recessions than you will ever see.

Capital Retro,
Firstly, most of the interest rate cuts happened well before the current crisis, so you can’t just claim your comment was only directed at what’s happening now.

Secondly, for reference, even during the periods including massive economic crises like the GFC, the Australian sharemarket has provided long term returns of around 10%. Cash is closer to 5%. So investing in equities has shown to be far superior over the long term.

No one is saying that self funded retirees need to have their entire nest egg invested in equities because of short term variability risks but some balanced market exposure would easily achieve significantly higher results that pure cash options.

To be a self funded retiree, as a single person, you would have more than $580k in assets plus a house of unlimited value.

For couples, it’s more than $876k and a house.

And you are fully backed up by being able to transition to the age pension if and when your assets fall below those levels.

So to claim that you need to have the entire amount in risk free investments is beyond ridiculous. The average person is retired for 20+years.

For most people, the position you are suggesting, is actually one of subsidisation by the taxpayer. The “self funded” part isn’t really true if the taxpayer ends up footing the bill.

And the RBA’s monetary policy has worked as expected, stifling runaway growth during boom periods and stimulating economic activity during downturns as it is now.

Perhaps you are confused in thinking that they are solely in control? They play a part and they do it well, but they can’t control the government and they can’t control global economic conditions

Capital Retro6:42 pm 27 Sep 20

I did not claim that interest rates cuts only happened now. They have been happening for 10 years and this was the policy of the RBA I am criticizing and this policy has in fact caused runaway growth in migration and home building.

Accordingly, the RBA isn’t one to give sound advice especially as they now want to print more money and crash the Australian dollar.

And dolphin, how about a critique of the unfunded defined benefit ex-public service pensioners who never paid a cent towards their pension and now whine because they have to pay tax on it? This group were the ones vehemently opposing Labor’s proposed abolition of franked credits because most of them I know had shares in their own name and were offsetting the tax credits against the pension tax.

Who has never had it so good?

Capital Retro,
You claimed that:
“Why would anyone in retirement want to risk their nest egg in equities in the current environment?”

I was simply pointing out that interest rates have been dropping for much longer than in the “current environment” and long term returns on equities are still well above anything cash has delivered.

“the RBA I am criticizing and this policy has in fact caused runaway growth in migration and home building.”

Um, the RBA isn’t in charge of migration, so how can interest rates possibly control something set by the federal government?

And interest rates have impacted home building in a good way by stimulating economic activity, so i’m not sure what you’re on about there? There are plenty of problems with housing policy and taxation in the area but they are almost exclusively in the control of the federal government, the RBA have performed their duties well.

And I also have to call you out on defined benefit Super because your statement is just wrong. Anyone who was in these funds had an employment benefit for Super which was the responsibility of the employer to set aside. The fact that the government chose not to set those funds aside is the government’s fault, not the employee.

Whilst the terms of this Super was generous (which is why they were closed), it is no different to any other employment agreement and formed part of their overall employment package.

And the people who complained the most about the proposed removal of franking credits were those with very large Super balances, who thus had low taxable incomes. It wasnt limited to defined benefits recipients, most were these “self funded” retirees you’re talking about. At least it seems we agree that Labor’s policy was the correct one here.

Capital Retro10:22 am 28 Sep 20

I did limit my criticism of the defined benefits recipients to retired public servants who you portray as “victims” and I did address that section of that comment to your fellow comrade dolphin.

You have ignored my comments regarding Australian households debt levels and if you can’t see the link to that and RBA cheap money policy then maybe you should review it. Also, cheap money feeding the building industry drove high migration. Once again, join the dots.

Capital Retro,
Where have I portrayed them as victims?

You were the ones portraying them whingers who “never paid a cent towards their pension”, when this is simply a blatant falsehood.

Also, you didn’t make a point about household debt levels that needs to be addressed. Once again, you are mistaking the responsibilities of the RBA for the federal government’s.

Migration is solely the domain of the Federal government. They can change those levels at any time. Monetary policy doesn’t drive anything in this regards.

And as above, the Federal government is also responsible for household debt levels mainly to do with increased housing costs.

For the last few decades, the Fed’s have refused to enact sensible policy changes to create more affordable housing.

In fact, the policies enacted, particularly around the taxation settings on housing investment have actively supercharged that growth.

You’re barking up the wrong tree by trying to pin that on the RBA who have only a few levers to pull and can’t control the federal government from being stupid.

Its also ironic that you’re complaining about this when the vast majority of the benefits of these generous federal government policies have been older, wealthier people. You know, those “self funded” retirees you’ve been lionising?

Capital Retro6:07 pm 28 Sep 20

You said: “The fact that the government chose not to set those funds aside is the government’s fault, not the employee.”

If someone is at fault in a two party matter the other party is usually the victim.

You obviously love the RBA and it’s actions; I don’t and neither does Paul Keating:https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2020/09/26/keat-s26.html

Here is another link to the “Marxist” governor of the RBA commenting about policy what is really well outside his domain: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-29/rba-governor-philip-lowe-goes-marxist/8662228

When you refer to older, wealthier self-funded retirees receiving a “vast majority of benefits” (what exactly are these?), don’t forget that self-funded means just that so we save the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars a year. People like you who only believe only in socialism understandably find that difficult to deal with. I respect that.

“If someone is at fault in a two party matter the other party is usually the victim.”

Except this isn’t a two party matter. The government is now meeting their obligations, paid for through current taxation. So if there are victims of this, it is the general taxpayer of today who is once again subsidising the government expenditure of the past.

Beneficiaries of this are once again older people.

“You obviously love the RBA and it’s actions; I don’t and neither does Paul Keating”

This is just laughable now. Did you even read what Keating’s proposal was. You’re constantly promoting fiscal responsibility by government and you’ve then linked to an article promoting MMT. Keating is proposing that because they control the currency, the government should just print more money.

This would absolutely wipe out the savings of the self funded retirees you claim to be worries about. You’ve unwittingly supported the destruction of retirees savings. Lol.

“When you refer to older, wealthier self-funded retirees receiving a “vast majority of benefits” (what exactly are these?)”

You seem to be of the belief that self funded retirees wealth is not impacted by government policy and that every dollar they have was somehow only earnt through hard work. Unfortunately for you, this is completely incorrect.

Successive changes in government policy actually created large portions of that wealth and supercharged growth.

For example, the institution of the capital gains tax discount and negative gearing on property allowed people to reduce their tax burden, and created a massive property boom. The beneficiaries of this government policy is overwhelmingly older, wealthier Australians. Your ironically named “self funded” retirees.

You act like these policies are somehow the natural state of things, but they aren’t. It’s deliberate government intervention which has enriched a small section of the community through subsidisation by everyone else.

You complain about household debt levels but then refuse to admit why it is so and who as benefited because of it. Unbelievable.

Another example is one you’ve already mentioned, the franking credits refund. Exploited by older wealthier people who pay no tax. These people are indeed paying negative taxation.

If you want to move past the so called self funded retirees, the pension assets test allows multimillionaire to receive a welfare payment.

I’m the opposite of a socialist, I believe in fairness, equity and people paying their own way.

Unfortunately you are promoting a position where wealthy people should be subsidised by other poorer people and not pay for the significant amenity they receive. Who exactly is the socialist here?

Capital Retro5:49 pm 30 Sep 20

Well, I can’t speak for everyone but I have certainly always “paid my own way”. In the early days of SMSFs the deductibility rules for sole traders and partnerships were a lot different to “corporatised self-employed ones”. Accordingly, contributions that were tax-deductible to company/employer were capped to individuals or partnerships, like they are now for everybody. In any event, contributions tax was paid and earnings on the fund were taxable during the accumulation phase so this dispels the popular myth that the liquidity in the fund is “tax-free”. I am glad you have pointed out that the pensions assets test applies to all multimillionaires (I am not one) and not just self-funded retirees.

High levels of household debt has been caused by historic low interest rates which is the responsibility of the RBA alone. The main beneficiary of the consumer spend up on homes and their contents has been China.

By definition socialists live off other peoples money and that isn’t me and I also believe in fairness, equity and people paying their own way. I practice what I preach and if you are the opposite of a socialist and you are not one of the people you criticise you must be doing it very tough.

Capital Retro,
With regards to Super, I have little issue with the current arrangements but there were significant problems previously because the appropriate caps weren’t in place and then we’re far too high.

Super was not designed as a vehicle to lower your tax bill, it was designed to provide you with sufficient savings in retirement to reduce reliance on the pension. Once again, the people that exploited these rules didnt break any laws but its a bit “rich” to claim their “self funded” status didn’t come with a large dollop of government assistance.

“High levels of household debt has been caused by historic low interest rates…the responsibility of the RBA alone. The main beneficiary of the consumer spend up on homes …has been China.”

These two sentences are entirely wrong. The RBAs setting of interest rates reflects economic conditions and is significantly affected by government policy. The government policy is the main cause of the increase in household debt and the main beneficiaries are wealthier older Australians. This is undeniable fact.

Anyone that has seen the comparitave wealth graphs for different generations at the same age can easily see the trends of current older people riding the wave of deliberate government policy and economic growth over decades to enrich them. These rates of wealth accumulation are far in excess of previous or future generations. This isnt a case of simply “working harder” it’s caused by structural inequity.

As for me, i’m doing just fine. As I’m not a hypocrite I can recognise where government policy has benefited me but I’m not old enough to have significantly exploited the policies we are talking about.

If you aren’t a socialist, you would recognise the government interventions that have enriched older Australians, largely subsidised by younger Australians current debt.

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