There is an internet adage called Godwin’s rule of Hitler Analogies that says:
‘As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1’
I would now like to propose my own law. I’m calling it Resce’s Law of GST Derailment. It says:
‘Wherever the Australian Democrats are being discussed, someone will bring up the GST and the conversation will be derailed’
This has been an interesting experience for me! When I first joined the Australian Democrats in 2013, the Australian Democrats’ 1999 GST decision was long over. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of it (I was only in Year 10 at the time, and had lots more pressing teenage issues to deal with).
I’ve heard of it now, though – time and time again, especially online – and it is time that we address this elephant in the room once and for all, so that we can move forward.
So, to the onlooker who has just seen the Australian Democrats pop up again, before you bring up the GST, I ask you to consider these three things.
We are a new generation of Australian Democrats.
The reason I joined, and many other recent members have joined, is because of the ideas and policies behind the Australian Democrats. We are inspired by the centrist, progressive approach that is determined to reject partisan politics, so that we can brainstorm and provide solutions for the many challenges facing this country.
Many of us were not politically aware or active at the time of the GST, and have not even met the Party representatives who were key players at that time.
New Democrats are proud of our history and the achievements of those before us, but there is so much more to our history than the GST decision.
Truth be told, it is odd that a political party is continuing to be held to account for a decision made over 20 years ago, especially one made by people who in many cases are no longer part of the Party. This is a standard against which other political parties are not judged.
We are a new generation of Democrats, and we care about making a difference. Please don’t hobble us by viewing us through the past.
That being said – seeing the GST keeps being brought up – we have had to do our homework on the topic. And here is what we’ve landed on.
The government needs a means to generate revenue. So how are they going to do it?
This is especially relevant now when we see both major parties selling off our assets to be privatised, hobbling the abilities of future generations to have Australian-generated revenue for government services, infrastructure and jobs.
The fact is, the GST has continued to provide revenue, and unlike other taxes that contain loopholes the extremely wealthy can weasel out of, this is a tax that is paid by everybody.
And we negotiated to keep the GST family-friendly. It could have been much worse.
The 1998 election was fought primarily on the issue of tax reform. The Democrats promised we would negotiate with the party forming government to get the best tax deal we possibly could, and we kept that promise. As a consequence of some of our negotiations:
- The Democrats prevented fresh food from being taxed
- The rail freight system received a big boost with the removal of the diesel fuel excise, thus making rail more competitive against trucks on our road
- $3 billion dollars was allocated for the environment including $400 million for a greenhouse gas abatement program, the first such initiative in South Australia
Our negotiations made a potentially bad tax, better.
This is who we are as a Party. This is why I joined.
We do not believe in arbitrary blocking in the Senate for the purpose of political point scoring: we will negotiate, with whoever is in government, to ensure that we will get the best deal that we can possibly get, for all Australians.
The GST was not perfect – we didn’t get everything we wanted, and neither did the Liberal party at the time. But the incoming Labor government made no move to repeal it, and 20 years later, revenue from the GST continues to be a fairer solution to the problem of revenue than other taxes.
Mistakes were made, now it’s time to move on
From all accounts, it was a divisive time that was plagued by in-fighting in our Party (something that plagues every party, as we are seeing at the moment). Perhaps things could have been done differently, and the Australian Democrats of the time have more than paid the price for any missteps they made with their own membership and the Australian public.
But the time for penance is over.
The new generation of Australian Democrats can reflect on lessons learned from the past, while being proud that despite the negative outcomes the decision had for our Party, it had very positive outcomes for our country.
So, onlooker who has seen the Australian Democrats pop up again, please don’t focus on the GST. This country is looking for change, for evidence-based policies, solutions-focused politics, and a Party that is willing to negotiate with whichever government is in power to achieve outcomes that are in the best interest of all Australians.
We’re moving on, and we encourage you to join us.