If there is one thing Kevin Rudd is not it is courageous in the “Yes Minister” meaning of that word. He is cautious in the extreme about doing anything which might upset anyone. The idea that a Rudd Labor Government would be in the business of introducing a capital gains tax on even the houses of the very rich is clearly preposterous. It is one of the few policies you can think of which might just be frightening enough to people to cost Labor the next election. So perhaps that is what Adele Ferguson and David Uren had in mind when they wrote the page one lead for Saturday’s Weekend Australian.
Under the headline “CGT slug for rich - Family Homes Face Tax” the Oz’s pair of financial wizards told how the Rudd Government was considering slapping a wealth tax on the country’s most expensive family homes. Surely fiscal fantasy has never before received such page one prominence but there it was with a spokesman for Treasurer Wayne Swan declining to comment on Treasury modelling on possible changes to the tax system being thrown in as if that somehow was proof of the dastardly plan.
As we noted in Crikey’s Sunday Breakfast Media Wrap, Saturday morning was still young when Treasurer Wayne Swan’s office released a statement denying the Government was considering the tax. “There has been no request from the Government to the Australia’s Future Tax System review to model such proposals,” the statement said. “We are advised that no such modelling is being carried out by the review, and therefore no recommendation of this sort will be made to us by the panel.” The Government is not considering and “will not” consider the policy outlined in the report. “There will be thousands of stories between now and when the final report is released and unfortunately, like this one today, many of them will be incorrect.”
This denial was eventually used on the omnibus Murdoch news.com.au website to replace the story taken from The Australianbut nothing at all was done to make even a minor qualification onThe Australian’s own web site. The original story was still being displayed in pride of place on Sunday afternoon as if the paper was defiantly making the point that Messrs Ferguson and Uren were right and Wayne Swan a complete and utter liar.
I could find no trace this morning, either, of any kind of retraction on the Oz website. It is hardly the behaviour we deserve from a would-be reputable national daily.