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Singing helps with day job of trying to keep taxes low

By David Leyonhjelm - posted Monday, 7 December 2015


Singers are often asked to contribute their political views, but politicians are rarely asked to sing.

I tried to redress this obvious injustice in the Senate last week by singing "The Five Bills of Christmas". The response, it must be said, was mixed. There are still no offers from recording companies.

Some of the news reports could best be summarised as, "Look at this goose trying to sing in parliament". Some managed to identify it as a bit of light-hearted fun. Precious few actually took notice of what I was singing about.

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In case you missed it, to the tune of the 12 days of Christmas, I was singing about the five tax bills that passed through parliament this year. These comprised a bill that abolished the dependent spouse tax offset and increased tax on interest earned by aspiring home owners; a bill delaying access to deductions for spending on in-house software; a bill abolishing a tax offset for Australian seafarers, and cutting the research and development tax concession; a bill increasing capital gains tax liability between entities swapping shares, and a bill reducing FBT concessions and reducing concessions for car owners and FIFO workers.

In essence, all of the bills were tax grabs, and since we are already over-taxed, I consider them to be unreasonable. But few journalists cared enough to report about them.

I knew that if I made another regular kind of speech, it would have died a quiet death in the graveyard of ideas we call Hansard. So desperate times led to desperate measures – hence my decision to sing about it.

It's funny how news priorities work. Last year, I met a newspaper editor who explained it to me. For many people, he said, politics is just like football. People follow the parties just as passionately and illogically as they follow a football team, heaping praise on one side and abuse on another, depending on what side they follow, irrespective of the merits of what is happening in front of them.

The news is therefore all about the game, the contest, the teams, and the conflict within and without.

It's hard work getting anyone to notice anything that falls outside these parameters – like a new idea, or anything that is uncontested. Nobody cared about these tax increases, because all of the other parties support high taxes and there was no conflict to report.

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Journalists also took note of my speech about the "no jab, no pay" legislation, and in particular, my radical opinion that childless people are being exploited by the government's obsession with handing out their money to people with kids.

Once again, some manufactured a bit of outrage about my description of kids as bundles of dribble and sputum. But many covered the speech in better detail, which generated some worthwhile debate. I hope that future governments will never again be able to buy votes from people with kids, without being answerable to those without them.

But these were just two of various speeches I made that week, and I never make a speech just for the fun of it. Many notable things happen in parliament that you will never hear about.

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This article first appeared in the Australian Financial Review.



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About the Author

David Leyonhjelm is the Liberal Democrat Senator for NSW.

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