Kim Beazley’s Address to the Nation on the GST

This is the full text of the Address to the Nation on the GST by Opposition Leader Kim Beazley.

The address, telecast on ABC television, was in response to the Prime Minister’s address on June 29.

Transcript of Kim Beazley’s Address to the Nation on the GST.

BeazleyGood evening. Thanks for your time.

I want to talk to you tonight about John Howard’s Goods and Services Tax.

And I want you to know why we in the Labor Party have so strongly opposed this tax.

We know ordinary Australians will be paying out much more in GST than they’ll get back from the tax cuts.

In truth, the winners from this GST are big business and high-income earners.

Pensioners and the other needy people in our society certainly lose from this tax.

For families, over the coming weeks and months, bill after bill will come in with the ten percent GST on top.

Dry cleaning, haircuts, school clothing, phone bills, car and home insurance will all rise.

And yet the housekeeping budget of average families is not about to go up by ten percent.

What’s more, this tax has been badly mishandled. We have seen botch after botch as the Howard Government rushed it into our lives.

It’s a complex, difficult to administer tax, which is going to send a lot of people in small business to the wall.

Under Mr Howard the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and the middle is getting squeezed.

And John Howard’s GST will divide us further.

One of the worst things about this tax is the way Mr Howard and his Government have so misled Australians.

And many of those who supported the GST are now saying this is not the GST they voted for.

People are rightly annoyed that the government’s promise that petrol would not go up was broken.

When you see the prices as you drive past your service station – remember, you are paying an extra 1.5 cents a litre in tax — something John Howard said wouldn’t happen.

Dearer petrol feeds into many other prices. We’ve already seen prices going up before the GST – and higher prices feed into inflation, and that means higher interest rates.

Nowhere in Australia are prices higher than in regional Australia. And under a GST higher prices mean higher taxes. So, people in regional Australia will be paying more tax than city people.

John Howard said bank fees would not go up. Well, we now know how much truth there was in those claims.

Already one major bank has put a whole range of its fees up by ten percent.

And we now know renters will be paying increases twice as high as John Howard promised.

Under Mr Howard we are seeing the growth of two Australias – as the GST just widens the gap between the wealthy and low income-earners.

Even pensioners – the most vulnerable in our society – are not being fairly compensated.

So mean is this Government that the first pensioners’ payment this Thursday is ten dollars short.

For most middle income families — who have been forced into private health insurance by the government in recent weeks — the premiums have wiped out most of their tax cuts before they get them.

Well, the Labor Party opposes the GST, and in government we will roll it back.

We will roll it back in health and education. And we will lift the burden on the most needy.

And I especially want to say to small business people tonight that we know how hard you’ve been hit. You’ve had to pay for new computers, new software, accountants’ advice, staff hours to re-label goods – and the real paperwork has not even started.

In government, Labor will simplify this tax for small business, and lessen its impact on jobs.

You will know our plans in plenty of time for the next election.

But make no mistake, whatever the Government tells you, we did not want this tax.

We opposed it at the last election.

In the Parliament we voted against it.

You may have heard the claim that somehow the GST is good for the economy.

But it won’t fix the cash economy.

In Europe where this tax has been around for many years, tax avoiders are everywhere – the cash economy is booming.

More people here will want to deal in cash to avoid this tax.

That’s the European experience – just ask Arthur Daley.

So a GST is not good for the economy.

We think this GST has huge problems.

And it’s not just that the winners are big business and high-income earners.

It’s not just that it’s so hard on the most needy;

Or that it’s been so botched in its introduction;

Or that for most people tax cuts will not cover the GST.

It’s because this GST has cost our country so much in lost opportunities.

It has eaten up so much of our time and money it has stopped proper national investment in health and education.

Our children are our future: without a decent education system we are not preparing for that future.

We should be talking about how we can make Australia a Knowledge Nation, with a highly educated workforce.

Under John Howard, we have the shameful distinction of being virtually the only modern country whose share of its wealth spent on education, training and research is in decline.

I think that’s a disgrace. And in a country as rich as ours it’s also a disgrace that our public hospital system is so run down.

When Labor returns to office, we will restore public schools, the public hospital system, and job creation as top priorities.

The danger is that John Howard, who has had this GST as a guiding vision since the 1970s, will lift the rate higher than ten percent, and increase the range of goods and services covered.

Labor’s commitment is that we will roll this tax back, we will make it fairer and simpler.

We can then focus national government on health and education and jobs- for the future of all our people.

Thank you for your time this evening.

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