Andrew Bartlett leaves the Chamber

The blogging senator, Andrew Bartlett, gave his final speech the other day. He posted the full text to his blog. I was particularly delighted to read this:

I also want to talk briefly on the issue of tax. Tax has caused a bit of grief for the Democrats over the years but in reviewing taxation, as the federal government is doing, I want to lend my support to ideas dealing with some of the broader issues about tax raised by Joshua Gans and Andrew Leigh recently, including what Mr Gans calls ‘the society gap’—the reality these days where we means test benefits based on household income but means test taxes on the basis of individual income. This creates a lot of distortions, inequities and anomalies. Again, there is not necessarily an easy solution, although one idea is to look at some sort of broader consideration of households as a unit, whether legally in an incorporated sense or some other less formal sense for tax purposes and then look at income and deductions for things like child care and household expenditure as a group to try and match the reality, rather than having this continuing mismatch.

I also support, as has been Democrat policy for a long time, looking at making income tax returns optional so people can opt out and forgo any refund. This system exists in other countries and it saves an enormous amount in terms of bureaucracy. I also support the need for more data, an example of which was mentioned and noted in the recent Senate committee on housing affordability. We have enormous tax expenditures—for example, forgone revenue and some of our capital gains tax exemptions in that area alone are estimated to be tens of billions of dollars. We do not even know how much they cost or what the opportunity cost is. There are lots of things that we still do not know and are not getting enough data about, and I think we need to put a few more resources—and I know at the moment the government is looking at cutting back here and there—into this area. We have to look at those macroissues in the tax system, rather than just bits and pieces within it, although they are also important.

These are two of the things I failed to actually discuss but posted here on tax reform directions. Hopefully some our politicians remaining might have heard his message.