The best price signaller in the landNovember 24, 2010
Spare the taxpayer, shun the limelightDecember 22, 2010
It was my privilege to recommend Ken Henry for appointment as Secretary of The Treasury in 2001 and to recommend his reappointment in 2006.
Ken was a devoted public servant who served both sides of politics. He was committed to good policy, in particular market oriented mechanisms to ensure competitive outcomes in labour and product markets. He showed a great patience in Senate Estimates Committees and had a wry sense of humour.
When the Coalition decided (yet again) it would attempt to introduce a broad based consumption tax in 1997 Ken Henry was appointed to Chair the Interdepartmental Committee to design it. Ken had been instrumental in working for the Keating Government against the Coalition’s GST Proposal at the 1993 Election. I knew that, like all sensible people, he did not personally believe in that cause. He knew that despite populist opposition Australia needed to grasp the nettle and introduce a broad based Goods and Services Tax. It was a sense of black humour to put the man who had designed the attacks the last time around to design the defences this time around.
The effort involved in introducing the GST and abolishing other indirect taxes, changing income taxes, family allowances and company taxes was mammoth. Ken showed an incredible dedication to the task. He bravely fought for a pure version with a broad base. We were successful (just) in receiving endorsement for this at the 1998 Election. Unfortunately populist opposition prevented our policy being passed in a pure form through the Senate. Nonetheless the achievement was considerable and Ken Henry deserves enormous credit for his efforts.
Ken had focussed on taxation from the days of the 1985 taxation policy of the Hawke/Keating Government. As much as any other public servant he has contributed to development and advances in this area.
In more recent days there was quite a bit of criticism of the role adopted by Dr Henry under the Rudd Government in particular. This should be no reflection on him. The Government was all too keen to push him into the political arena when it lacked the confidence or the conviction to make policy and defend it itself.
Tanya and I add our personal congratulations to a fine public servant for a job well done. We wish him, and Naomi, success in their next stage of life.
I have had a close association with Dr Martin Parkinson, particularly in the area of International Financial arrangements. He did a sterling job in coordinating the G20 when Australia was Chair in 2006. I have a very high regard for his abilities and I wish him well.