Getting away with it: Gas companies not paying their fair share

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Gas companies are not paying enough tax in Australia (image by Rossographer via Geograph).

Australians are being pitted against each other while corporate rorts cost us tens of billions a year.

ALMOST EVERY DAY there is another article or media segment outlining the ongoing “intergenerational battle” between the baby boomers and Gen Y over any number of hot-button issues. This conflict is largely waged by each side against the well-established stereotype of their opposite number, rather than actual people.

Some baby boomers claim that the reason Gen Y can’t afford a home is due to the fact they are bad with their money, spending too much on luxuries like overseas holidays and “avocado on toast”.

Conversely, some members of Gen Y claim that all baby boomers should be wealthy because they had the unfair advantage of free university educations and affordable housing prices.

Both arguments have a grain of truth to them, but they are largely based on unfounded assumptions rather than an objective view of reality.

The mood surrounding these intergenerational skirmishes has only served to further polarise the political and social discourse surrounding many of the issues faced by the citizens of modern Australia.

All the while, issues that cost the Australian taxpayer tens of billions of dollars a year coast through relatively unnoticed by a public transfixed by the media’s coverage of “deconstructed meal eating hipsters” and “entitled baby boomers”.

While many Australians continue to debate the merits of their own generational viewpoint around BBQ’s across the nation, issues that cost their wallet far more than “dole bludgers” or “entitled baby boomers” slip through the cracks.

By 2020, Australia will eclipse Qatar to become the largest exporter of gas in the world, with gas royalties in 2018 netting the Government just $600 million. In Qatar however, their gas export royalties will earn their Government $26.6 billion this year.

To put that number into perspective it's more than the Federal Government provides to the states for public hospitals ($21.2 billion), it's more than the Government spends on the sick and unemployed through Centrelink ($10.2 billion). It would represent a 5.3% boost to the Federal budget that could be spent on any number of programs to improve the lives of everyday Australians.

For an additional $25.8 billion a year, the Government could increase funding to Medicare by over 80%, it could increase Federal funding to government schools by more than 198%, the number of policies that level of funding could make possible is positively staggering in scope.

While the gas companies will get to count the tens of billions of dollars a year in extra revenue that our Government allows them to keep, Australians remain bitterly divided, still debating issues that pale in comparison to the scale of the tax concessions on offer to the gas industry.

This represents just one of a number of issues that often escapes the attention of mainstream Australia, ultimately resulting in higher taxes for everyday people and lower funding for hospitals, roads and schools, as the public is forced to make up the Government’s self-inflicted revenue shortfall.

As some among us bicker amongst ourselves over who is to blame for the issues our respective generations face, the potential solutions to our collective problems slide by mostly unnoticed, often only given attention by a select few commentators or academics.

As a nation, we need to demand more from our Government. There are solutions to problems that our country faces that can quite literally be resolved without the Australian public being asked to fork over another cent of their hard earned money. Whether it’s increasing the rate of gas royalties or ensuring that companies are taxed in Australia on the revenue they generate within our borders, there are surprisingly easy solutions to ensuring a more prosperous 21st Century for all Australians.

Tarric Brooker is a freelance journalist and political commentator. You can follow him on Twitter @AvidCommentator.

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