Sunday, 23 May 2010

The GST rise big story of the Budget

By David

The GST rise is definitely the big story of the Budget, even Greenpeace’s press release focuses on it.

Although, disappointingly, they call for the “strengthening” rather than scrapping of the ETS pollution market, and offer an endorsement of the UK’s new Tory leader David Cameron, who allegedly possesses “some forward-thinking and visionary ideas.” (Which is news to me, as I was under the impression he was just another Margaret Thatcher / Tony Blair corporate clone... rather like John Key.)

The focus on this regressive tax increase, rather than the cuts in income tax is bad news for National and a another sign that the public mood is turning against the Government.

In their official statement, the Maori Party did their best to accentuate the positive, by listing all the little projects that got funding, and asking their supporters not to focus on GST:

“We know that the biggest challenge will be in encouraging our constituency to look broader at the whole picture of the budget – rather than focusing on one measure in isolation.”

But such a focus is unavoidable. As Maori Party MP Hone Harawira put’s it:

“GST hits poor people the hardest because nearly all of their money is spent on things that you pay GST on – food, petrol, electricity – so any increase is going to really hurt them.”

That extra 2.5% will be increasing the impact of every peak oil petrol price hike, and every world commodity market induced rise in cheese or bread.

Harawira’s personal statement against the GST rise, and his request to party leaders for permission to vote against the increase, have earned both praise and criticism.

Marty G at The Standard urged Harawira to “have the courage of his convictions” and cross the floor to vote against the Budget even with out his party’s permission. In the event, Harawira’s vote, along with those of the five other Maori Party MPs went for the Budget.

Comments on the post have suggested that voting for the Budget makes Harawira a wimp, a sell-out or a blowhard. But while I would have applauded Harawira had he crossed the floor, I think it would have been a tactical error for him to go against the wishes of his party leaders, at this time.

The right wing of the Maori Party have already tried to force him out, for the trivial offence of using offensive language when pointing out the crimes of Pakeha parliamentarians in a private email. To break ranks over this issue would only given them another excuse.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia had the support of (and was under pressure from) a hikoi of tens of thousands before she broke with Labour over the foreshore and seabed act. Who does Hone Harawira have? How many people took to the streets against the GST rise?

The only thing coming close is the few dozen of us who went out today to launch the Socialist Worker – Alliance petition calling for GST to be removed from food and financial speculation to be taxed.

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