The GST: just reject it!
The Senate inquiry into the federal government's proposed goods and services tax (GST) has unearthed plenty of evidence to prove that it is fundamentally unfair and inequitable.
However, during the course of the inquiry, the debate has shifted from whether a GST should be accepted or rejected to a debate about whether the GST can be made a little less onerous for poorer sections of the population.
The Australian Democrats and Senator Brian Harradine should face reality — it is not possible to make an unfair tax fair. They should simply reject the GST. This is blatantly obvious to most people, even if it escapes the Democrats and Harradine.
In last year's federal election, only a minority of people voted for parties that support a GST. Opinion polls continue to show majority opposition. An April poll showed 54% opposed.
The Coalition government was re-elected with a minority of votes and in spite of its pro-GST platform. Even then, it used enormous trickery during the campaign. The Coalition withheld important Treasury documents which contradicted its pro-GST sales pitch.
The thorough opportunism of the Labor Party's anti-GST position during the election campaign is revealed by opposition leader Kim Beazley's recent statements pledging that a future Labor government would not abolish the GST.
Labor's real position on the GST is silent support. Beazley and company know that they can safely vote against the GST because the Democrats and independent senators will vote for an amended GST.
The GST debate has proved that the Democrats are just as duplicitous as the major parliamentary parties. Most Democrat voters trusted the Democrats when they pledged to exempt food from the GST. Now, the Democrats are arguing for only some food to be exempt. The Democrats now support a GST on prepared meals bought in supermarkets, takeaway food, restaurant meals, bakery products (except bread) and junk food. Only "basic" food and drink would be exempt.
Democrat leader Meg Lees has even argued that exempting only "basic" food from the GST will encourage families to spend more time at home! Making prepared food even more expensive means that women, especially women on low incomes, will have to spend more time cooking, and be more overworked and stressed as a result of their increased domestic responsibilities.
Harradine is still looking for a way of compensating the people who will be lose from the GST. It doesn't matter how much you fiddle with the GST by exempting some items or adjusting compensation. Such measures and exemptions can be easily removed at a later date.
Every working and poor person will lose from a GST. That's why it must be rejected.
Majority opposition to the GST means that it is still possible to defeat the GST if that opposition is mobilised. Organisations which oppose the GST and have a mass base amongst the working class, such as trade unions, have a special responsibility to mobilise and build this opposition.
At the moment, though, even the most militant trade unions prefer to leave issues like the GST to the parliamentarians.
By shifting the tax burden from the corporate rich to the working class, the capitalist class is continuing the process begun in the 1980s, when the proportion of the national wealth going to profits massively increased. Government and big business attacks on unions, wages and working conditions, job security and the welfare system are part of this project.
Such a systematic attack on the rights and living standards of working-class people cannot be resisted if the trade union movement limits its resistance to only some of these attacks.
A political and industrial campaign to defeat the GST would assist campaigns to stop the attacks on other fronts. Such a campaign would come into conflict with the ALP, which ideologically and organisationally dominates the trade union movement and is not fundamentally opposed to the GST.
If the government gets away with its plan to introduce a GST, it may still be possible to campaign to abolish the GST. However, that would be a more difficult task than defeating the GST now.