The Elephant in the Room

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

And more.

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.



  1. michael smythe September 24, 2017 at 8:56 am - Reply

    Well said, Elisa.You can be sure that the GST issue will be brought up, again and again, while those who raise the matter think it has traction.Namely, supporters of the major parties-especially Labor and the Greens.The reason is that they fear the rise of a viable alternative party,which will replace them.The GST or something similar had to happen and the Democrats did well to improve it as you’ve pointed out.Good, well thought out and practical policies will eventually blot out the ‘political memory’ of the GST coming into force.There will be many who will speak to its benefits if it still remains a negative for the Party-but I don’t think it will

  2. Robert Mansfield November 30, 2017 at 8:54 am - Reply

    Nobody likes the GST but it is one of those necessary evils which makes the economy work. I think that given the need to have a revenue stream which enables the state’s finances not to go down into the hole.
    here is a revolutionary Idea which most likely will not get a lot of support. If we advocate for a 2.5% increase in the GST but each dollar which is raised in a state is given to that state government. To help fund public housing and other affordability issues in states not via the carving up method which is currently applied. It would get a lot of attention in states like WA, NSW and Victoria.
    There is an problem with the current carve up of the pie does not address the funding predicament of the states. To get a back on the political stage nationally we need a few key issues which resonate. if we can pick up some in the hard states of WA and NSW. then that is a start.
    The three which I would pick if it were up to me
    1) fight political a systemic corruption.
    2) Address inadequacies in funding Public housing and keeping welfare recipients out of absolute poverty.
    3) Raising the GST by 2.5% for a more fair and equitable carve up. ( With the last to give senators candidates a better chance).
    We choose the three best and prosecute those issue first many other issues can be used for depth.

  3. JW January 9, 2018 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    You have entirely missed the point and as long as you continue to miss the point and defend that horrible decision you will never regain credibility.

    Lets look at the facts vs the propaganda you are regurgitating:

    Myth: “Everyone pays the tax equally” its not just a tax on the poor.

    Poor person buys;
    food, clothes or pay or bills – pay GST
    a car – pay GST

    Wealthy person buys;
    Gold bullion -No GST
    Stocks -No GST
    Bonds -No GST
    A company car owned by their corporation -No GST
    A private jet owned by their corporation -No GST

    Starting to get the picture? This is how the tax was DESIGNED to extract wealth from the poor and exempt the rich. It was never a fair tax and was never intended to be fair. Your predecessors were either gullible or complicit: Neither case makes you trustworthy. My best hope is that you never noticed the above inequities and now having them pointed out will give you pause to reconsider your opinion.

    You want a fair GST, make companies pay it as well on all their purchases. Charge it on stocks, bonds and bullion purchases. Revenue would easily triple. Of course this will never happen. So at least stop trying to tell us that the GST is fair and that passing it was the right thing to do. Its been nearly 2 decades yet you still can’t admit that the decision was wrong even though you weren’t the ones who made it. This gives the impression that if such legislation was introduced today you WOULD vote for it. That being the case how can you claim that you are a ‘different generation’ and shouldn’t be held responsible?

    I was always a democrats voter until the GST betrayal. The entire purpose of a balance of power party is to block egregious legislation such as this. It was a con and you fell for it because your leaders weren’t intelligent enough to see through it. You need smarter people running for office and leading your party. Your platform still contains other policies that are based on equally false premises. If you are genuinely interested in changing your policies feel free to contact me and I’ll be happy to point out more policies that were designed to screw over the majority of Australian public while being applauded as good and right.

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