How Joe Hockey Can Save $30bn At A Stroke

Joe Hockey is looking for cuts: Pic from FAN THE FIRE magazine

With mighty sweeps of his machete Joe Hockey is slashing his way through money for child care, community radio, aboriginal affairs and anything he can find that his boss doesn’t like, with an unapologetic shrug. We’re living beyond our means, it seems. Sorry, but we can’t afford it. Dreadful waste, he says, while still handing out gazillions to property investors and well-off stay at home mums.

And of course it all adds up: a couple of mill here, a couple of mill here: but he has to slash an awful lot to get back into the black . . . when was that Joe? Hopefully while you’re still alive, did you say?

Let me help you. I have a way to get us back in the black far faster. At a stroke I can easily find $30 billion a year that we’re wasting. That’s a start, isn’t it?

Fiona Patten,leader of the Australian Sex Party, points out:

“A conservative estimate is that income tax exemptions alone to churches and religious organisations cost taxpayers nearly $ 20 billion a year. Add to that GST concessions, exemptions from capital gains tax (on property and share trading) and the Fringe Benefits Tax Exemption and the cost to tax payers is staggering…”

Jane Shaw of the Kings Tribune found lots of for-profit businesses.

“Religious groups in Australia have a combined wealth of around $1 billion, they run cereal companies, insurance companies, wineries and pizza chains, and pay none of the income tax or capital gains tax that slows the rest of us down on our climb to wealth and profit.”

So let’s tax them, too. How much would it bring in? Well, it’s hard to find out exactly, but John L Perkins and Frank Gomez, back in 2007, came up with a total figure of $31 billion per year. And that does not include FBT and GST. Here are their figures.

Table 1 – Revenue and Assets of Churches (2007 estimates)

$ Million 
Revenue of the 10 biggest churches
Estimated collections
Catholic Church Assets
Estimated other church assets

Notes:          W   2005 information from BRW article “God’s Business” June 2006 + 20% 
                    X   10% of estimated Catholic Church revenue 
                    Y   2005 information from BRW article “God’s Business” June 2006 + 50% 
                    Z   Assumes Catholic assets same ratio of total (40.8%) as of revenue.

Table 2 – Estimates of Cost to Taxpayers
$ Million
Income tax lost (at corporate rate )
Capital gains tax lost (corporate rate) 
Grants for family counselling 
Chaplains in schools programme 
Grants to religious schools (from commonwealth) 
Grants to religious schools (from states) 
Grants for abortion counselling 
Grant for interfaith convention Melbourne 
Grant for Catholic World Youth Day (state & federal) 

Notes:          A   30% of the estimated revenue 
                    B   Assumes 10% realised CG from asset holdings, property + shares 
                    C   2005/2006 budget forward estimates 
                    D   One third of $90 million announced over 3 years 
                    E   2007 Budget Papers (90% of total non-govt of $6.256 billion) 
                    F   SMH article as above estimate of NSW funding x 3 
                    G   Media releases 
                    H   2007 Budget Papers 
                    I    Govt media + budget 
Table 3 – Income Lost to State and Local Governments

$ Million
Payroll tax exemptions
Stamp duty exemptions
Land tax exemptions
Rate income lost to councils
$ 610


J      Based on NSW treasury figures X 3 for whole country
K    Pro-rated on above

L     Pro-rated on above
M    Pro-rated on above against Association of Local Councils source

Pretty staggering, isn’t it? And don’t forget, most of this is NOT charitable work: it’s for-profit businesses like employment agencies, aged care homes, hospitals and clinics, as well as the business and property portfolios they have amassed down the years. Plus, these estimates are six years old. How much more have they socked away since then?

So if you want to tackle the alleged deficit, Joe, ‘level the playing field’, and give everyone ‘a fair go’, tax religions and their businesses like everyone else, keeping perks only for 100% charitable activities. And leave the poor, the refugees, the aboriginals and other struggling groups alone. You might even have enough left over to give them a hand up.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)