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Shades of utopia: Clive Palmer unveils his Australian vision

It’s never been entirely clear to me why Clive Palmer wants to become prime minister.

Sure, he’s been political his whole life, and it’s not the first time he’s run a minor-party campaign (he was a key figure in Liberal Party breakaway The Liberal Movement in the 1970s).

But what could he hope to achieve through personal involvement in politics that couldn’t be achieved the way billionaires usually jockey for influence: Through a media-buy and a few well-placed donations?

Yesterday, at the formal launch of the Palmer United Party campaign, we got a glimpse.

Entering flanked by six police officers as ‘Eye of the Tiger’ blared through the speakers, Palmer announced his plans for the country. And they’re certainly ambitious.

He wants to lower income tax rates by 15%, increase the aged pension by 20%, and inject $80 billion into the health system.

He also plans to halve the tax rate paid on second jobs, and abolish the fringe benefits tax entirely.

He even had a novel approach to dealing with asylum seekers. He said he’d allow them to fly into Australia on an $800 return ticket, no visa required. Once they land, they’d be given a hearing, and if they weren’t found to be refugees, they’d get back on the plane they came from. He said the policy would save $6 billion a year in detention costs and crush the people-smuggler’s business model.

But the centrepiece of Palmer’s campaign seems to be a plan to “turbo-charge” economic growth by allowing companies to pay their tax annually instead of quarterly.

“This will be done by changing the situation where companies pay their tax quarterly, based on an estimate, to companies being required to pay their tax annually based on their actual results,” he said.

“This result will mean that an extra $70 billion remains in the economy for a year, creating confidence, strong domestic demand and jobs.”

Ultimately, according to Palmer, this policy will still result in the government collecting the same amount of tax. But, he figures, if businesses can hold onto their tax revenue for a while longer, they’ll spend more, which means you’ll get more spending going through the economy, boosting GST revenue along the way.

“$70 billion only has to turn over once in individual’s hands to create $7 billion of GST alone, so it will also create more revenue and mean we can have more facilities, schools and hospitals,” the Queensland-based mining magnate said.

It’s not clear where Palmer got the $70 billion figure from. Or how he plans to fund the billions in spending promises.

But one thing is clear: Without his own party, Palmer would be unlikely to get the major parties to agree to policies this ambitious, no matter how much behind-the-scenes lobbying he did.

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Myriam Robin

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Myriam Robin is a reporter for SmartCompany and its sister site LeadingCompany. She has degrees in economics, international studies and journalism. She likes writing about businesses taking risks and doing new things.
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