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Senator Brian Harradine Opposes the GST

This is an edited version of the speech by Senator Brian Harradine in the Senate announcing his intention to vote against the introduction of a Goods and Services Tax.

  • Listen to Harradine’s speech (11m)
  • Listen to Democrats Leader Senator Meg Lees comment on the future of the GST in the light of Harradine’s opposition. (4m)

Speech by Senator Brian Harradine.

Independent Tasmanian Senator Brian HarradineThis new tax system that has been proposed by the Government, we all agree, is a major revolutionary reform, and for good or bad we will have to live with it for decades to come.

A huge effort has been expended by the Government and by others in developing this new tax system proposal.

The executive Government has put forward this proposal pursuant to what it considers to be a mandate given by the people at the last election in October.

So much has been said about this question of mandate and I’m not going to enter into that argument at this point of time.

I’ve been honored to have been a member of the Senate select committee on the new tax system from December last year until it gave its report last month.

Millions and millions of words have been spoken about this package.

There have been arguments for and against this package. Reasons have been advanced by the Government for the necessity of this package, including that the current revenue-raising system is broken.

The family is the fundamental group unit of our society and whatever is done should be family-friendly.

Unfortunately, the GST proposal regards the cost of raising children to be discretionary consumption and I believe it very important that investment in children should be recognised as an essential and economic necessity for the future wellbeing of this nation.

Now the Government of course indicates through its tax cuts that that is what it is doing in the family tax cuts. Well, you can do that without a GST. That is evident by the Government’s own document, the ANTS package document.

Now, I’ve been told to keep in there and to try to develop a situation of compensation to try to get a better result. The Government has looked at this adequacy of compensation again and to be fair to the Government has sought to examine how best those compensation packages could be improved.

They were quite significant improvements, to my way of thinking, to the package.

The question is whether compensation is adequate … the question now in my mind is whether it is inherently regressive to such an extent that it should not be supported.

The pattern of expenditure for disabled people and for those who are chronically ill and elderly are more burdensome than those without such disabilities.

I’ve always been conscious of the fact that the true test of a civilised society is in how it regards and treats its most vulnerable. But I don’t claim here a monopoly on moral judgments in respect of this. I just happen to believe that the inherently regressive nature of the GST does not achieve that test.

The Government’s genuine attempt to compensate and to attempt to lock in that compensation is something to be commended, but it cannot be guaranteed.

But one thing can be guaranteed, and that is that a GST, once enshrined in legislation, will never be removed. We are making decisions here that will affect generations.

And the question that I have to ask myself is whether I’m going to be a party to imposing an impersonal, indiscriminate tax on my children, my grandchildren, and their children for generations to come. I cannot.

I know my name will be mud which ever way it goes. I did my best to see whether or not, in the end, I could support the measure.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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