Prammer backs tax increases

Parliament speaker Barbara Prammer has branded suggestions to restore the state budget without any tax increases as “illusory”.

The Social Democrat (SPÖ) – who reportedly considers running for president in 2016 – told the Kurier that “the weak have to be protected”. Prammer stressed she did not want to give her point of view on the various suggestions made by the government and the opposition considering tax reforms in the past weeks – but called an increase of Austria’s maximum tax rate as a “legitimate measure”.

Several SPÖ officials spoke out in favour of such a step before Prammer revealed her support for the idea. The People’s Party (ÖVP) of Vice Chancellor Michael Spindelegger is against the idea. The Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ), which is headed by former Freedom Party (FPÖ) delegate Josef Bucher, agrees with the ÖVP in this concern.

Prammer also said she liked the idea to broadcast meetings of special parliamentary commissions in the future. Asked whether she feared that members of the committees might use the additional attention to increase their personal profile, Prammer said those willing to “turn the commission into a stage” would do so anyway.

The president of the parliament said she welcomed the debate about screening the commission’s gatherings on TV. However, Prammer warned that “the presence of cameras does not automatically increase the quality of work”. She said the rising number of broadcast parliamentary meetings had shown that this was not the case.

National broadcaster ORF focuses on live broadcasting of parliamentary meetings more strongly since it launched a new station called ORF III. The channel’s schedule mainly features culture and information programmes, documentaries and political talk shows. It was launched on 26 October 2011, last year’s Austrian National Day.

The creation of ORF III followed the rising pressure on ORF to produce and screen more sophisticated programmes instead of American sitcoms and Hollywood movies. ORF 1 offers a wide range of live sports events coverage while ORF 2’s programme consists of German drama films, folk music shows and soap operas.

Die Presse reports today that Prammer considers the chances that meetings of the upcoming corruption investigation commission will be shown live on television as unlikely. The newspaper quotes her as saying that a change of various parliamentary regulations was needed to make broadcasting possible.

Delegates of all five parliamentary parties are set to examine corruption accusations brought forward against several former government ministers and parliament members (MPs). High-ranking businesspeople and lobbyists could be entangled in fraudulent deals carried out by entrepreneurs working for firms close to the state in cooperation with lawmakers.

Representatives of all main political movements but the Greens may face lawsuits if the allegations turn out to be true. Green Party MP Gabriela Moser was asked to head the corruption investigation commission which will look into the controversial sale of state-owned real estate firm BUWOG and some assignments issued by Telekom Austria (TA). State prosecutors are investigating against lobbyists, entrepreneurs and former politicians at the same time.