Morrison ruffles Abbott’s feathers on tax policy

Treasurer Scott Morrison with Tony Abbott in September 2015. Sam Mooy/AAP

Treasurer Scott Morrison, already under fire for not having tax policy out, has got into a stoush with former prime minister Tony Abbott over how much work was done before the leadership change.

Morrison said the government only started the process of looking at a plethora of new tax measures in September, when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and he put things back on the table.

“It was only last September when we started the approach of looking at issues, whether it was superannuation or the GST or other things like that,” he told 3AW. “Those issues were not under consideration before September last year. It was not like they were beavering away on them for two years before that. Those issues only came into consideration in September.”

A spokesman for Abbott hit back: “It is simply not true that the government only started looking at tax issues last September”.

The Abbott office also referred to statements put out last June by then-treasurer Joe Hockey and Morrison, who was social services minister, saying the government was extending the consultation period for the tax white paper process to allow for further submissions and engagement on retirement incomes.

This was part of a deal with the Greens to secure tougher eligibility arrangements for the pension. But Hockey reiterated in his statement that the government had no plans to change tax arrangements for superannuation.

By the time of Abbott’s departure from office, superannuation, negative gearing and, effectively, a higher GST were not live options for tax reform. Abbott had ruled out superannuation and negative gearing changes. Any move on the GST, which the Abbott government stressed had to come from the states, had become too hard. In his final speech to parliament, Hockey called for all three areas to be tackled.

After the reaction from the Abbott office to his radio comments, Morrison moved to smooth things by tweeting: “My comments on tax issues put back on the table by the PM were not a criticism of Mr Abbott or Mr Hockey but a statement of chronology”.

The sharp response by the Abbott spokesman underlines the continuing sensitivities in the Liberal Party. Abbott has been particularly scratchy about Morrison because he believes the now-treasurer was disloyal to him in the leadership battle. Morrison voted for Abbott but would not run to be his deputy leader after Turnbull announced his challenge, and Morrison supporters voted for Turnbull.