The Guardian February 9, 2000

Snowball the protest movement

The Prime Minister's rowdy reception during his country tour and the 
Liberal debacle in the two Queensland State by-elections, could be the 
start of a snowballing protest against the GST and a number of other Howard 
Government policies which are having a devastating effect of the 
livelihoods of many people in the country and the city alike.

The GST is already causing widespread misgivings and opposition among those 
who are being called upon to implement its nightmare regulations and who 
will be forced to carry the huge extras costs being imposed on every single 
business and organisation in the country. The GST is already being imposed 
and collected even before its official introduction on July 1. When the tax 
is levied on the huge range of essential goods and services that do not at 
present attract any tax at all, the real consequences of the GST will bring 
forth a storm of protest.

In 1993 when the then leader of the Liberal Party, John Hewson, attempted 
to introduce a GST he was howled down by a massive wave of protest and 
defeated in the elections. This, together with the fact that the Labor 
Party also vigorously denounced such a tax, was the key to its defeat then.

Unfortunately, the clever but lying propaganda of the Howard Government to 
the effect that the "tax system was broke and needed fixing" and that a GST 
was a "fair" tax to be paid equally by everyone, misled many people and 
neutralised the opposition. Howard was able to advocate the same policy as 
had defeated John Hewson but Howard was not met by the same outrage.

The opposition of many people to a GST is again rising and becoming vocal. 
Unless this tax is overturned before it becomes entrenched it will become 
increasingly difficult to throw it out in the future.

The GST does not stand alone in the Government's plans. It goes along with 
a substantial reduction of company tax from 36 to 30 per cent and a 
reduction in capital gains tax by half. These cuts are gifts worth billions 
of dollars to the rich and to the big corporations while workers, 
pensioners, students and the unemployed pick up the tab with a tax on their 
purchases. Perhaps many accepted that a GST could be "fair" provided that 
the higher prices to be paid on tens of thousands of goods and most 
services would be compensated by PAYE tax cuts and increases in pensions 
and other welfare payments. Nothing could be further from the truth. The 
benefits from these tax reductions are being cancelled out by price rises 
even before the tax cuts have been introduced. Last week's rise in interest 
rates will also increase the prices of many commodities as well as home 
mortgages as the increased interest rates are passed on to consumers.

A resolution adopted at the weekend by the Executive of the CC of the 
Communist Party called for a campaign to throw out the GST. This could be 
achieved provided the whole labour movement campaigns for a commitment from 
the Labor Party that upon winning office it will repeal the GST 
legislation. Such a call advanced by the trade union movement and by the 
Labor Party would win a tremendous response from the overwhelming majority 
of workers, small business, professional workers and farmers. It would 
paralyse the Howard Government's attempts to introduce the GST.

It is not sufficient for Labor Party leaders to criticise the GST, to make 
points about its unfairness while accepting it as a fait accompli. To leave 
it at criticism might in the short-term win votes but will not relieve the 
huge attack on people's living standards that will come about as a result 
of the GST.

The many issues raised by people and organisations during the Prime 
Minister's country tour indicate that there are the beginnings of a 
groundswell of dissatisfaction with the Coalition Government's policies. 
Issues of the environment, Telstra privatisation, the withdrawal of 
services from country towns and unemployment all got an airing.

Let the river of discontent become a flood capable of sweeping away this 
government of big business with its lies and policies that are a disaster 
for the majority of the Australian people.
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