Saturday , 4 February 2023
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If not for Bill Clinton we could have taxed the internet, says Peter Costello

Peter Costello, the country's longest-serving treasurer, is now chairman of Nine Entertainment.

Governments around the world missed a golden opportunity to raise “unbelievable amounts of money” by putting a tax on access to the internet when it was in its infancy, according to former Treasurer Peter Costello.

Speaking to Fairfax Media in his new role as chairman of free-to-air broadcaster Nine Entertainment Co, Mr Costello recalled sitting in his Parliamentary office in the 1990s in the early days of the web, and pondering the vast future revenue such a levy could generate.

“I was Treasurer at the time. It would have been the easiest thing in the world, by the way, for governments around the world to have put a charge on the internet. It wouldn’t have had to be very big but it would have raised a motza,” said Mr Costello.

Governments would all have to agree together to do it, and the OECD was looking it at the time. It would have been hard to police but once (former US President) BIll Clinton came out and said the internet would be free that was it. Once the Americans said the internet was going to be free, the rest of the world was going to follow suit.”

Mr Costello, Australia’s longest-serving treasurer, who went on to introduce the goods and services tax with then-prime minister John Howard, said an internet access tax “could have been a fraction of a cent a year and it would have raised governments’ unbelievable amounts of money”.