BY ALISON DELLIT
July 1 marked the first full year of the Goods and Services Tax but while most birthdays are occasions for great celebration, this was anything but.
According to the June 7 Herald Sun, 56% of people feel worse off under the new regime, and 58% oppose it. This is not surprising — the end-of-year financial figures indicate that the GST will bring in more revenue than business taxes, and a third again what the government already receives from individual income taxes. People are paying more tax than ever before — but the wealthy and business are paying less.
This has not stopped Business Review Weekly and the Australian Financial Review calling for steps to consolidate the GST regime.
The June 29 BRW called for the tax to be increased to 12%, and the July 3 AFR called for the tax to be altered to spend a larger share of revenue "on improving the productive base of the economy rather than ... to compensate some of the losers from tax reform". The losers referred to are low-income earners and retirees; "improving the productive base" means lowering the tax rate for the top earners.
In contrast, members and supporters of the Socialist Alliance organised actions around the country on June 30 to call for the GST's abolition.
Alana Kerr reports that the eastern Sydney branch of the Socialist Alliance gave the GST an "Unhappy Birthday Party" outside the offices of Wentworth MP Andrew Thomson. They handed out flyers criticising the GST, had birthday cakes (with 10% missing) and asked passers-by to sign an Unhappy Birthday card, which was later delivered to Thomson.
The Alex Travallion Plaza on the main street of Marrickville in Sydney echoed to the calls for the abolition of the GST, reports Russell Pickering. The hour-long speakout confirmed widespread opposition to the GST as passers-by stopped and listen to speakers and then themselves explained the negative impact it had had on their lives.
Also in Sydney, the Chatswood Socialist Alliance branch provoked media interest by choosing to burn an effigy of the Prime Minister. Socialist Alliance supporters held placards which spelt out "Scrap the GST", and when flipped "Howard is scum!". The North Shore Times ran a page 3 article with a photo after the demonstration. An editorial in the same edition slammed the protesters as "un-Australian" for burning the effigy.
In Brisbane, Susan Austin reports, local Socialist Alliance branches — in West End, Fortitude Valley/New Farm, Stones Corner and Ashgrove/Toowong — organised speakouts in community shopping strips. The West End action attracted not only people from the community but also the media and even the local police to participate — "they must be here to protect us from those ratbag Liberal extremists", noted one Socialist Alliance member.
Socialist Alliance held a succesful speakout in Canberra, Andrew Hall reports, outside the office of ACT Liberal Senator Margaret Reid. They distributed thousands of anti-GST leaflets calling for the abolition of the tax because of its harmful effects on workers and the poor.
Dave Murphy reports from Darwin that many of the shoppers at Rapid Creek markets were keen to sign the petition opposing the GST and were eager to find out about a political organisation which was committed to defeating such an unfair tax.
From Hobart, Alex Bainbridge reports that a number of Socialist Alliance activists gathered at the Salamanca Markets to distribute leaflets against the GST. One feature was the scores of red balloons given away with the Socialist Alliance logo and the "Axe the GST" slogan.
In Perth, Roberto Jorquera reports, 25 Socialist Alliance activists gathered outside the Australian Taxation Office. Chants such as "axe the tax, tax the rich" rung out as people marched through the central railway station and into the Murray Street mall. The activists present decided to make mall speakouts a regular part of Socialist Alliance campaigning.
Socialist Alliance also held actions in Adelaide, Wollongong, Newcastle and other regions of Sydney. In Victoria, Socialist Alliance activists organised a rally in Aston, as reported in the July 4 edition of Green Left Weekly.