|Matthew Pawson CTA|
by Matthew Pawson CTA *
Although it will be more than a month until this report goes to publication, I am writing after just completing the 2017-18 federal Budget lock-up in Canberra with senior tax counsel, Professor Bob Deutsch, and tax counsel, Stephanie Caredes. It was my first Budget lock-up event and very possibly my last, so it has been a unique and enlightening experience.
After signing in and surrendering my phone under the shadow of the official secrets section of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth), the anticipation of the lock-up event took me back the best part of 20 years. It was much akin to that all-important university exam, with 300 or 400 other anxious stakeholders waiting for the magic moment of the doors opening. However, unlike the exam scenario, the reading time allotted was four hours, not a mere 15 minutes!
In a new venue for 2017 (it was later reported to me that the set-up at the Hyatt Hotel was much more conducive to the lock-up process), we strategically placed ourselves by the exit door to facilitate Bob’s later departure to Parliament House, then settled in to read a prolific quantity of Budget papers and supporting materials.
Even though we were all there for the same purpose, it appeared as though many stakeholders present approached the task quite differently to us. Unlike the exam environment, there was a surprising amount of interaction between stakeholders — both Budget-related and otherwise. I noticed that some people didn’t really knuckle down to the task for the best part of an hour!
By 6:00 pm, we were well into the process of preparing our media release about the Budget and helping Bob, in whatever way we could, to prepare for the subsequent media scrum that he had so gallantly signed up for.
I have worked closely with our tax policy team for a number of months now, but it was here in the lock-up that it demonstrated its real value to me. I can confidently report that, between the three of us at the event, we carefully reviewed, robustly considered and actively agitated all of the Budget material. Subsequently, we applied the same level of rigour to strategically craft the Institute’s media statement, which was published within half an hour of our liberation from the lock-up venue, and our special Budget-edition TaxVine statement.
I do not need to provide any substantive commentary on the positions the Institute has taken on the various Budget announcements. Members can easily access all of that on our website. What I should comment on is the perseverance of our senior tax council, Bob Deutsch, in his efforts to provide positive and productive media exposure for the Institute in his professional yet tenacious manner, much preferring the interests of the Institute ahead of his own on the night.
I ought not omit to mention our CEO, Noel Rowland, who also made an important contribution to the Institute’s presence in Canberra on Budget night, flying the flag for us at the Budget dinner and again, with Bob and I, at the Budget breakfast the following morning, followed by the Treasurer’s National Press Club lunch.
I strongly commend the thorough preparations of Bob, Stephanie and the entire tax policy team for the 2017-18 Budget lock-up event, including Angie Ananda, Bruce Quigley and Stephanie Conway, ably assisted on the night by Cheryl Goh, Alex Munroe and my colleague on National Council, Tim Neilson.
They all undertook great work to execute the Institute’s Budget response. In this forum, we have seen the great value provided to our members by the work done, connections made and opportunities taken by the tax policy team members for and on behalf the Institute. Their efforts enable us to maintain a strong, credible and authoritative voice in the halls of power that determine tax policy, tax law and tax administration in this country, and they cannot be overstated.
For me, being afforded the privilege of representing our diverse member interests by participating in this process and watching the team in action has been a unique, gratifying experience. I can attest that we can all be proud of the work that our tax policy team is doing and I have every personal assurance that this important work is set to continue for the balance of this year and into the future.
Consequently, I encourage every member to continue to support our tax policy team by engaging with TaxVine, participating in policy consultation matters, and raising issues of importance to you, our members.
* Matthew Pawson is President of The Tax Institute. This article was first published in the June issue of the Institute's Taxation in Australia journal.