Treasury Secretaries are notorious for being conservative prickly characters – the role demands they destroy the half-baked enthusiasms of amateur economists and the dangerous projects of populist politicians.
Dr Henry is certainly prickly, but is no conformist conservative. He rose to Secretary solely on merit and application, while retaining his intellectual independence and scepticism.
Prosper regards his contribution to Australia’s Future Tax System – the document that maps out the direction Australia must take to lift living standards for all – as his crowning achievement.
AFTS recommends – insists – the way forward is to reduce the burden of taxation on labor and capital and transfer it onto economic rents.
This tax reform will turbocharge our economy. It will make Australia a genuine centre of excellence: a magnet for investment, for jobs, and a shining example to stunted and downtrodden citizens everywhere.
The much-weakened mining tax is only one aspect of this reform. The opposition it provoked from mine owners points to its effectiveness. We could have had an extra $40 billion or more a year in government coffers – money to end the bad and distorting taxes we now endure, or improve the services government provides.
Instead, weak politicians have retreated and compromised and dissembled – on a tax that doesn’t distort economic behaviour and gives Australia a share in the land’s bounty.
There are enough reform opportunities in AFTS to occupy governments for a decade.
Dr Henry is to be replaced by Dr Martin Parkinson. Prosper fervently hope he has intestinal fortitude and departmental support to persist with Dr Henry’s ambitious tax reform agenda.
Addendum: I am not along in admiring Dr Henry. Ross Gittins of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald does too, for much the same reasons.