CRAIG L THOMSON
The Queensland Nurses’ Union is calling for a new tax on the banking and finance sector to help fund the public health system.
The proposed Financial Transaction Tax or ‘Robin Hood Tax’ would be a modest levy of between 0.005 and 0.05 per cent applied to banks and financial institutions each time they make a transaction while trading stocks, bonds, derivatives and futures options.
QNU Secretary Beth Mohle said the provision of universal healthcare should be a priority for political leaders and a Robin Hood tax would be easy to implement.
“We see it as an alternative to the Abbott government’s $7 GP co-payment which could threaten Medicare and start an increase in the schedule of fees for hospitals,” Ms Mohle said.
“The responsibility can’t just be left to individuals. Recent decades have seen risk shift from governments to individuals.”
“As citizens, through our governments, we bailed out global financial corporations during the GFC. Now in the wake of that crisis we are seeing austerity moves by governments that place essential services like public health services at risk.
“We all must contribute to funding health properly and the idea of using tax alternatives to fund our public health services and hospitals is about reciprocity and the embodiment of a fair go.”
University of Queensland economics Professor John Quiggin said for the tax to work, a substantial international agreement would need to be in place.
“It would be difficult for one country such as Australia to implement this on their own, but as we have seen with climate change policy, once agreement is reached between a couple of countries the rest follow,” he said.
“We should be aspiring to this type of program as a global initiative, it would raise a significant amount of revenue and putting that into health care seems a logical use for the revenue.
“Once there is a global agreement in place the levy would be simple for government to enforce and I am sure the public tolerance would be low to bank avoidance.”
The proposed levy for Australia amounts to an estimated five cents for every $100 being traded and would only target large profits made on risky, high-volume trading.
It would not affect everyday transactions made by the public.
A Guardian newspaper report in 2011 claimed one thousand economists from 53 countries wrote an open letter to G20 finance ministers urging a Robin Hood tax be introduced, saying it was not only “technically feasible” but also “morally right.”