Government: Not to be trusted
Independent Federal Member for Kalgoorlie
BEWARE. There will be promises, promises and more promises with a Federal election looming on the horizon. And be assured too that the incumbent government will suddenly find a war chest to fund its election pork barrelling agenda.
The major political parties will do everything in their power to convince country people that they will be catered for.
The coalition will list all the things that it has done for the bush and how much better off country people will be by returning the government at the polls. The Opposition will endeavour to persuade electors that its revived policies will be the panacea for the country.
The Howard hordes will list the things it has done for the sensitive hip pockets of electors, like its goods and services tax which will exempt health, education and childcare; its assistance for pig meat producers; its decision to allow the introduction of new mobile phone technology which will benefit existing analog users and, its support of the multi-billion dollar rail link between Melbourne and Darwin.
The government will also use its solution of the long-standing Wik imbroligo as one of the highlights of its term in office.
Despite the raft of promises that the election will undoubtedly bring, the needs of the bush will continue to play second fiddle to city-based politicians for obvious reasons. There are more votes to be gained and there are marginal electorates where political aspirants will be vying with each other to secure a seat in the new parliament.
Unlike any other electorate in the world, and certainly in Australia, the Kalgoorlie electorate, the biggest in the world, appears only to receive lip service from both the Coalition and the Opposition.
Both parties seem to conveniently ignore that this electorate and the people who work and live in it contributes a very large proportion of Australia's export income, natural gas, petroleum and iron ore, diamonds, gold, nickel, wheat and wool. Without this contribution much of the things people in the cities take for granted would not be available.
While however long I remain your representative in Canberra, I will continue to push whoever is in government for a better deal for the bush, and address issues such as health, communications, erosion of government services, employment, and the closure of banking facilities in country towns.
But, country people will be acutely aware that it will be the GST that is going to hit them hard.
Now that Howard and Costello have locked the coalition into the imposition of a GST, it will be the people living in the country that will have to bear the cost of this new tax.
Despite its statements about wanting wide-ranging discussions on taxation reform, the Federal government has consistently refused to compare the merits of a debits tax which I have advocated, alongside its GST. A debits tax is simply an added percentage to the amount withdrawn from all accounts by banks and financial institutions. This tax, when cleared, is instantly deposited through the Electronic Funds Transfer system into the national treasury.
Although the coalition will claim health, education and childcare have escaped the GST and that some food lines will be cheaper, the bottom line is that people working and living in rural and remote Australia will be hit by higher costs.
The government has indicated that food and housing will be fully taxed. These are two areas which will hit the Kalgoorlie electorate particularly hard.
Fresh food is already an expensive household item in places like the Goldfields, the Pilbara and the Kimberley. Suppliers cite freight as a reason for the increased costs. The GST will now be given as a reason for the added cost.
It could mean the average household grocery bill increasing by more than $100 annually in mining centres scattered throughout the electorate.
The GST will also hit workers who have no choice but to rent their accommodation. In some places where the average weekly rental for a home is about $250 a week, the 10 per cent GST will add a further $1300 annually to accommodation costs.
This will encourage more workers to opt for fly-in, fly-out employment and this in turn will spell disaster for many small communities. It could also lead to an increase in social problems with families being split up for as long as six weeks at a time.
Mr Campbell also said that imposition of the GST would create an administrative nightmare for businesses given the task of implementing the new tax.
What this is going to mean is that businesses will, in effect, become tax collectors for the federal government.
Printed in the September/October 1998 edition of National Focus (vol. 1, issue 4), p.1
Articles by Graeme Campbell