Sep 172008

Most of us have heard Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen sketch. If you haven’t, you should. It’s bloody hilarious.

I was listening to News Radio and the broadcast of Senate proceedings on the way home tonight. There was nothing interesting on Radio National for once. The debate underway was the second reading of the Tax Laws Amendment (Luxury Car Tax)
Bill 2008 and 3 related bills. The related bills include the alcopops tax. The half-hour or so I heard was taken up by coalition Senators, one being the new Nationals leader in the Senate, Barnaby Joyce, justifying rationales for not increasing a tax on luxury cars. I found myself immediately making Pythonesque comparisons.

If you’re a farmer, you need a four wheel or all wheel drive vehicle, apparently. I know plenty of such vehicles which fall under the $57,180 threshhold. According to Barnaby Joyce, and this is inferred from what I heard of his argument, a Nissan Navara ($33,660) or X-trail ($31,990) doesn’t fit the bill. It has to be a Toyota Landcruiser Sahara ($104,990)for room, ability, and I dare say green-ness, because that’s another rationale for opposing the government’s luxury car tax hike. Sad to relate, according to Red Book, the Landcruiser scores well below the Nissan products on the Green Credentials scale, so I guess that puts a lie to the accompanying argument that higher priced cars carry more technologically advanced additions and are better for the environment.

These rationales, according to Joyce, flow through to recreational fishers, as well as commercial fishers. Recreational horse enthusiasts as well as the commercial horse industry (does such a concept exist?) in order that such persons can tow their floats safely and legally(??). In fact I gathered from the arguments I heard put, that practically anyone who likes to drive a hulking great four wheel drive vehicle for either work, business or recreation, ought to be able to do so and not be subject to a sting by way of the luxury car tax. I can see these ventures by the government into revenue accretion becoming a longer-winded and more amended saga than the previous government’s GST.

I can see both sides of the respective arguments. If those who can afford to buy Landcruiser Saharas – not to mention Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Audis, Mercs or Jaguars – do so because they need such a vehicle for income generation purposes, then I agree with the coalition that a hike in tax is unjustified. However, I would challenge the logic which says a farmer must have a Landcruiser Sahara or similarly expensive 4WD/AWD vehicle, simply based on price. Retail dollars do not, in my estimation, relate directly to technological benefit or worth in terms of income generated. Neither does vehicular popularity or reputation necessarily translate to retail value, but that’s another subject entirely. Personally, I simply don’t see $105k in value or productivity when I see a Landcruiser Sahara.

Then there’s the government’s supposed argument that those who can afford these ‘luxury’ vehicles, something which I simply don’t regard the Landcruiser Sahara to be mind you, ought to be taxed in favour of those of us who purchase, out of necessity, ten year old used cars purely as transport. I’ve owned two new cars in my time. A 1978 Ford Escort 2L and a 1983 Nissan Bluebird. I seriously doubt I’ll ever be in a position to afford another new car. I can’t justify the outlay for one thing. However, were I in a position to afford a vehicle, like the Aston Martin DB9, for example, clearly money simply would not be an obstacle or cost a consideration. Even were I to come back to reality, and do what I’ve always dreamed of doing, in buying a Ford Performance Vehicle GT Falcon then handing it over to someone like DJR or SBR to tweak, I’d obviously not be at all concerned about paying increased luxury car tax. Again, money, value or productivity would not be the issue.

Let’s get right down to tin tacks and admit that luxury cars, per se, don’t really include the Landcruiser-like genre. Nor does the Holden Statesman for that matter. At $65k for the top-of-the-line Statesman, I suggest that’s pretty good value, even if it does suck in the green-ness stakes. Mind you, I would bother with either one. Just not me. Surely, as one of the amendments mooted to be acceptable to the coalition and cross-bench parties outlines, an increase in the luxury car threshhold is warranted. I’d estimate somewhere around $70k, which would protect the Australian car industry at the upper end and still sting those who feel the need to lash out on a Landcruiser Sahara to cart hay bales around it.

A luxury car, at least in my view, is a penis extension of the man driving it, and let’s be honest…..99.99% of such cars are driven by men. If the need for an appendage extension is so great and desire to burn obscene sums of money in the pursuit of same so strong, then a luxury car tax increase seems appropriate to me. I will agree that a formula for deciding just what ought to be taxed, why and how much needs to be found and that the current formula simply doesn’t fit the bill any longer, but being a primary producer, fisher or horsey person simply doesn’t cut it for me.

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