Anti-GST rallies around the country
Thirty people attended an anti-GST rally organised by the Greens at parliament in Canberra on June 21, Karen Burns reports. Several speakers addressed them on the GST's impact.
Greens Senator Bob Brown said that it was not just another issue, but an epoch-making change. "The GST might be OK for parliamentarians on big salaries, but it is not OK for poorer people", he said.
Brown said rallies were important to keep up pressure against the tax. The Greens, he said, will not give up the fight against the GST package.
Jeremy Pyner, secretary of the ACT Trades and Labour Council, said the GST is about a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. "We need a taxation system which is fair and can't be rorted. Instead we are getting a taxation system which is basically a handout to the wealthy."
Lynne Morgain from the Australian Council of Social Services said that the GST failed on the criterion of fairness. Ana Reynolds of the Australian Conservation Council and Kate Lundy from the ALP also spoke.
Edward Skimmerhorne reports from Hobart that about 200 people attended a rally organised by Bob Brown's office there on June 19 to denounce the Democrats' GST sell-out. The rally was addressed by Brown and a range of speakers selected to "represent the community".
Entertainment was provided by musician Peter Hicks. He sang his newly written "Meg's GST", to the tune of a well-known song by Redgum, whose former member John Schumann is now an adviser to Democrat leader Meg Lees.
Lynne Fitzgerald from the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council explained how full-time workers on award wages and young and part-time workers would be worse off under the "compromise" tax package.
Bruce Paterson from the Tasmania University SRC talked about the history of the GST and how unpopular it was. He cited voluntary student unionism, funding cuts and HECS increases, as well as the effects of the GST, to show that education under Howard is considered a privilege.
Brown explained that the GST deal would increase greenhouse gas emissions by 10%. He said that BHP will gain $200 million and an extra $300 million will be needed for health care because of air pollution. He called for assistance to small business which "enhances Tasmania's clean green image".
In Melbourne around 150 people attended a rally organised by National Union of Students and the Victorian Trades Hall Council to reject the goods and services tax. Speakers included Jennie George, secretary of the ACTU, Jacob Varghese from National Union of Students and Greens Melbourne city councillor David Risstrom.
George called on the Democrats to "be honest and reject this rotten deal". Varghese pointed out that the GST would disadvantage students, who are one of the poorer sections of society. Protesters then marched to the office of Democrat Senator Lyn Allison in East Melbourne.
Ruth Ratcliffe writes from Brisbane that 200 people gathered in King George Square on June 20 to condemn the GST.
The rally was initiated by the Queensland Greens and addressed by Bob Brown, who said the GST would accelerate the growth in the gap between rich and poor. By supporting the GST, the Democrats had ditched the people for a power base in parliament, Brown said.
The Democratic Socialist Party's Jim McIlroy criticised the premise on which the Democrats entered negotiations — that they could make the GST fair. "It is impossible to make a tax on consumption fair", he said. McIlroy called for a "tax revolution" that would tax the rich.
McIlroy pointed out that if the union movement and social welfare groups such as ACOSS had mobilised the 60% of the population who oppose the GST, the square would have been filled.
Others speakers were Barry Welch from the Queensland Teachers Union, Gary McLennan from Queensland University of Technology, Phoung Duong from the National Union of Students, Mary Nemeth from Community Arts, Brian Webb from the International Socialist Organisation and Maureen Hayes from the Brisbane City Council.
Maria Voukelatos reports that in Sydney around 700 people gathered at Town Hall on June 21 to oppose the GST. As the rally moved off, police started assaulting demonstrators to get them off the road and onto the footpath. This caused the march to swell with passers-by to around 1000 strong, the protesters breaking the police line and moving on to the streets.
Speakers on the day included Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon, who encouraged Natasha Stott Despoja and other members of the Democrats opposed to the GST to "resign now". She called on ALP to get rid of the GST upon its re-election. She told the crowd that we needed a strong alliance of organisations, individuals and community groups to be "the backbone of the movement" and beat the GST.
Aa representative from the combined pensioners said that the GST is "Australia's biggest con job". There was a strong theme through the rally that regardless of whether the GST was passed, we needed to build a strong movement and keep on campaigning against it until we got rid of it.