Here is the senator's genius: the budget is in deep deficit, the government desperately needs money, and this week he announced a tax cut worth at least $250 million. Conroy announced it, not the Prime Minister or Treasurer. This tax cut will be shared between three companies. Never before has a Sunday press release delivered so much to so few.
Normally tax cuts are announced in the budget, the result of the government working out how much revenue it needs and, if it can cut tax, assessing competing claims between, say, retirees or carers or … television stations. The stations won't have to go through the budget process. Nor will Conroy have to argue why media owners are more deserving of tax cuts than the poor or struggling families.
If you want to know how valuable these tax cuts are, Channel Ten's share price jumped 10 per cent on the announcement, delivering $150 million to shareholders. It's harder to assess the gain for Seven and Nine shareholders as they are mostly private equity firms in foreign jurisdictions. But they have reason to be thankful.
Until now the government had said it cannot announce any tax relief because it was waiting for the comprehensive tax review by Ken Henry. The television owners have gazumped all that. It no longer matters what Henry recommends on television taxes. This industry's wish list has been granted.