Tax is the price we pay to live in a civilised society. This is perhaps reflected in the Swedish term for tax, ‘skatt’, being synonymous with ‘treasure’. In Australia, by contrast, tax is not seen in such a positive light and the term ‘tax reform’ is too often used to simply mean tax cuts. The Australia Institute has attempted to push Australia’s tax debate beyond questions of higher or lower and to instead ask what kind of country do we want to live in and what policies are needed to get there? There are numerous countries Australia could look to for policy inspiration, but the Nordic countries’ consistent high performance across a range of social and economic indicators makes them an obvious choice.
The four main Nordic nations – Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway – are among the world's most highly ranked countries in terms of the factors that determine prosperity and particularly in terms of innovation: consistently ranking well above Australia. They are also among the most equal in terms of income distribution – much more equal than Australia.
These countries therefore provide an opportunity to study how policy settings might be adjusted in Australia to bring about a more prosperous, innovative and equal society here.