Kim Beazley Address On Taxation Reform And The GST

This is the text of Opposition Leader Kim Beazley’s Address to the Nation on Tax Reform.

The televised address was in response to an address by Prime Minister John Howard following his deal with the Australian Democrats on the Goods and Services Tax.

Beazley declared it was Labor policy to “roll back” the GST.

Text of Kim Beazley’s Address to the Nation on Tax Reform.

Opposition Leader Kim BeazleyMy friends, for the last two years, we as a nation have been bogged down in a debate about whether we should pay a new 10 per cent tax on just about everything.

The deal between the Government and the Democrats has produced this tax and we start paying it next year.

You know that we strongly disagree with them. The GST is a tax Australia doesn’t need, and Australians can’t afford. Let me briefly tell you why; what we intend to do about it; and then get on to the more important issues we face in the years ahead.

We know this GST will be a burden on families, especially those with kids;

The GST will hit those on fixed incomes the hardest – especially pensioners, as they face higher prices on their everyday needs;

And the GST is a burden on business – particularly small businesses – who will face on average $3,000 to set up the systems; all the extra paper work and hours more at the desk making sure they comply.

Despite all our efforts, however, we are now dealing with a new reality.

One of our tasks is to develop policies to deal with the worst aspects of this unfair Government/Democrats deal – to rescue the families, the pensioners, and small businesses who will be hurt the most.

One thing you should know is that the government deliberately refuses to record the GST on our sale dockets at the supermarket, the hairdresser, and everywhere else we pay it.

This is because the government wants to roll the GST forward.

You know they want it on all food, even if they tell you it will “never, ever” happen.

By now we have all seen what happened to John Howard’s promise “never, ever” to introduce a GST in the first place.

Labor’s commitment will be to roll-back the GST.

And as our first step, we will shortly announce details of our plan to monitor closely, and hold the government accountable for, price changes caused by its GST.

But now, my friends, it is time to deal with other issues as well. Because as a nation we are about so much more than just tax.

Let me tell you something I believe in intensely:

We are a small country in a world of giants.

Making a secure, prosperous Australia in the coming century demands all of us mastering the new information age.

I want to be the Education Prime Minister because I know we need the next generation of Australian workers to be smarter than the last.

That means putting in the hard work to create a new society in this country – a knowledge-based society for the future.

But this has to be a society we all share. There is a risk now of two Australias developing – a risk of some doing well and others not doing well.

As we strike out to meet new challenges, we must make sure we all benefit, not just some.

We can be the envy of the world, not only now, but for the long-haul. But at the heart of that effort today, there is almost wilful neglect.

Nations like Britain and the United States have leapt out of the starting blocks and are doing more research; spending more on training and education; and encouraging their businesses with new ideas.

But in Australia, our government has refused to talk about anything but tax, while elsewhere we have been slipping behind:

For example, almost as soon as John Howard came into office, government investment in research and development plummeted, and has remained low ever since.

And if we look at the broader picture of education, training and research spending, it started falling as soon as John Howard came into office; it has not stopped falling ever since; and it looks set to keep falling for another 3 years yet.

And this so dishonours us, because we are a people who have shown ourselves to be among the most willing and innovative adopters of new technologies anywhere in the world.

You can’t just suddenly start talking about a “can-do” nation, because a “can-do” nation can’t do if no-one is investing in the future.

We all know there are young kids being ignored in classrooms that are too big; teenagers who want to get a start but can’t find an apprenticeship; bright kids disadvantaged by the savaging of resources at TAFE or at University; and retrenched workers in their 40s and 50s being left behind, because nobody cares about helping them get new skills or get a new job.

The good news is we can do something about it – there is a better way forward.

While the focus has been on the GST, Labor has seized these initiatives:

We have put out some detailed policies; on better schools funding; lifting high school retention rates to 90 per cent; introducing a bonus for unemployed people who find work and stick at it; on better support for families, especially those with kids; and on giving kids an incentive to do the engineering and science subjects on which a knowledge-based society depends.

Some of us will always be able to pay for these opportunities. Many more of us won’t – it’s public investment that counts.

And Labor will do this in an economically responsible way that delivers the surpluses needed to keep the Budget in balance over the economic cycle.

We must also look forward on other issues like ensuring that protecting our natural environment is a national responsibility, and modernising our Constitution finally to give us a Head of State who is one of us.

In conclusion, there is probably no-one left in Australia without an opinion on the GST.

By the time of the next election I hope there’s no-one left in Australia without an opinion on a knowledge-based society, one in which all of us share the benefits of our nation’s progress, not just a few.

The task before me is to show there is a better way forward, and that a Beazley Labor government will deliver that knowledge-based society for Australia’s future.

I could want for no better challenge.

Thank you and good night.

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