OZ - Is the GST 10 per cent worse than Y2K?

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Is the GST 10 per cent worse than Y2K?
Monday 1 May 2000

Oh Lord, can it be May already? June 30 looms larger on the horizon every day. Got to sell the house before the GST. Or is that buy a house before the GST? Or was it build a house?

To quote the new poor: please explain. What about food? Should we stock the pantry before GST? I read that we should buy a car post-GST but fill the tank pre-GST? How's that going to work? It is beginning to feel a lot like Y2K. Will the water supply dry up? Should we be carrying torches?

People are getting the hell out. Thousands are selling their businesses, says the financial press. South Sydney newsagent Len Halvorsen is reportedly heading for Bali. It's called the "parachute approach". Will it cost Len 10per cent more if he wants to fly back? Probably. Paradoxically, the price of parachutes is floating up.

The restaurant trade says it expects turnover to drop 3.5per cent. Call me an idiot, but that seems to mean we spend 10 per cent more and eat 3.5per cent less. Guess we will all be 3.5per cent thinner. Can we make houses 3.5per cent smaller and split the difference?

So many questions, so little time. Cough lollies are GST-free. So is orange juice. If you have a cold, you are laughing. Half-dead of flu? You lucky tax-dodging son of a bitch!

Now the Aussie dollar's going down. Boffin on ABC radio drivetime last Thursday said the GST may be partly to blame. "Expectations of inflation," he explained. Expectations lead to higher interest rates and they lead to a devalued dollar. How about that. Newsagent Len, who is fleeing the country because of the GST, gets less to spend when he gets there. Because of the GST.

True symmetry this, a beautiful set of numbers. No wonder Paul Keating flirted with the thing. Appropriately, the GST information industry is going gangbusters. The Financial Review had a 16-page lift-out last week, almost as much space as Colonial Stadium took to explain how to get in. Nevertheless the fear remains: will the tax office have enough ticket windows open? Will the game start without us?

Wilson Tuckey, the well-known metallurgist, has no qualms. He whipped the backsides of 80 business executives last month for not supporting the GST. Fair enough too. It was the Libs' national convention and the fat cats had each paid $5000 to attend. With GST, the Libs could have charged another $500.

A couple of weeks ago, the tax office introduced the SAM, the Simplified Accounting Method, so poor sods like rural supplier Les Weetman would not close down. Weetman said last week that he was closing down anyway by introducing the SUJ: the Stick it Up your Jumper.

Peter Costello, the well-known macarena dancer, says the GST will reduce unemployment but, apart from pointing to the army of new ATO enforcers, he has waltzed around the burning question: how? Not even the famous fiscal oracle Pierpont can explain. But Pierpont did note last week that, while an apple from a fruit barrow is GST-free, an apple in a restaurant carries the GST because it is sold in enclosed premises.

Walls are bad, fresh air is good. That is your starting point. Your finishing point is 740 pages of new tax law that thumped on to the parliamentary table a couple of weeks ago.

Good thing they printed them before July 1. Heaven only knows what the GST is on 740 sheets of balderdash.

Lawrence Money is The Sunday Age Spy columnist.


I attended a GST conference today. It was organised by the Country Arts Trust. They arranged for someone from Perth to address the great unwashed. She came 3000 miles to explain GST to a poor provincial meeting. Why? I'm no wiser either afterwards.

When in turn I was asked I said it was that Canberra government 'white-fella dreaming' tax. I said it didn't matter so who cares? Why? Well, the dealers I do business with have given up in frustration and I need to begin a new networking scheme. It'll take years to get it going like before. So the Country Arts Trust dude advised that I should apply for a grant to tidy me over. I said who me? I'm no aborigine, I'm ethnic. I don't fit your criteria, see mate.

So I went home and turned on this box. Here at least are true anarchists in cyberland. In OZ they don't know nothing. GST is for real persons. I'm just cool in my imagination. You can't tax that!

Can you?

Regards from OZ - that freakie taxing place...

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), May 03, 2000


Hello again Pieter

It seems like Oz is one of the last strongholds as far as GST is concerned. In England they call it VAT and in the USA it is simply 'plus tax'. I still don't understand why it is necessary or how it helps the ordinary person (or not so ordinary) to keep afloat.

I understand the very basics, in that the Government imposes a broad tax on most goods and services and reduces the rate of personal income tax. Welfare payments are to be increased a whole 4% come 1 July and this is meant to ensure that those below the poverty level are not made to eat dog/cat food when the overall (estimated) 10% GST comes into play. I'm not an accountant, but somehow that just doesn't add up.....

I do wonder whether anyone in Government has bothered to look at GST (or whatever you might like to call it) and have actually seen what effect it is going to have on our economy. It is all such a mess! We are only 7 weeks from the legislation being enacted and yesterday another 12 amendments were passed in Parliament. Shame! Personally, as an ex-Democrat, I think Meg Ryan and her crew have a lot to answer for....they seem to have been very quiet of late, especially since the debate about taxing womens' sanitary products.

Regarless of being a tampon user or not, the basis of the tax is FLAWED. Once again, it is the 'wealthy' or 'upper class' who will reap the benefits and the ordinary people, whether white or black,will bear the brunt of it. It will be easier for some than others but I think their may be a lot of 'white fellars' joining in with some 'white-fellar dreaming'.


-- Kerry Maszkowski (masz@southcom.com.au), May 04, 2000.

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