The Pickering Post
Tuesday, 11th December 2018

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... but this “all States must agree” stuff is nonsense

Larry Pickering

Four-time Walkley Award winning political commentator and Churchill Fellow, has returned to the fray over concern that the integrity of news dissemination is continually being threatened by a partisan media.


I wrote about this a year ago, when I thought, “That sounds a bit funny, what does he mean by, ‘all States must agree?’”, so I went and looked up the GST Act of 1999. Well, it’s there all right! Sort of.

But what Abbott is relying on is a preliminary agreement made between all States and Territories that any increase "should have" unanimous agreement.

The legislation itself had no such agreement because there wasn’t unanimous agreement in the first place when the legislation was enacted.

It’s an Abbott cop out that he now realises won’t work. The cold fact is that there can never be a unanimous agreement between States because one or more will be facing an election or by-election or ensuing State Governments will have an ideological objection to a GST.

States will also never agree to the current inequitable carve-up. It’s a bloody mess that was not foreseen back in 1998-9.

A GST increase is necessary because the bracket creep tax hand-back can only be offset by a GST increase. And Hockey's forward estimates rely on the very bracket creep tax rates he says must be handed back!

It only hurts when you laugh.

The GST agreement signed by the Premiers, chief ministers and Prime Minister at the 1998 conference has a detailed section on changing the rate or coverage of the GST.

In Part 3: Administration of the GST it says:
"After the introduction of the GST, a proposal to vary the 10 per cent rate of the GST will require:

1, the unanimous support of the State and Territory Governments;

2, the endorsement by the Commonwealth Government of the day; and

3, the passage of relevant legislation by both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament."

That also includes, "any proposal to vary the GST base".

This is enshrined in nothing more than a temporary COAG agreement that includes in Sec 6: “All Parties agree to reconsider this Agreement should the Commonwealth Parliament pass the GST legislation in a way that significantly affects this Agreement.”

Ha, ha, ha, ...that’s the classic, legally unenforceable, “agreement to have an agreement” clause.

Also, no Commonwealth Parliament can possibly bind or hinder a future Commonwealth Parliament concerning its ability to legislate.

As I said one year ago, "there is certainly no legal impediment to a Federal Government changing the rate of the GST".... so, Abbott has been talking nonsense.

But the greater nonsense is being uttered by Shorten. He reckons that Abbott is about to up the GST, sending householders to the wall. Not true!

Abbott agreed that any changes to the GST would first be taken to a general election, and that is exactly what he is proposing to do, as did John Howard prior to its inception.

But Abbott needs to be in much better shape electorally if he is going to give Shorten a yummy target like a GST increase.