Welfare advocates give qualified support for GST reform

Fr Brennan

Social justice advocate Father Frank Brennan SJ has backed a call to broaden the tax base to fix problems in government budgets, but wants GST exemptions to remain for certain essentials.

- The Australian/ABC 7.30

Social justice campaigner Rev. Tim Costello has called for the GST to be expanded to cover private school fees, fresh food, water, sewerage, childcare and health to fix structural problems in government budgets.

Mr Costello’s controversial call to expand the tax base was backed last night by Graeme Samuel, one of the business architects of the GST and Australian Catholic University professor Frank Brennan, but provoked mixed responses from welfare, health and aid groups.

Fr Brennan, a social justice campaigner and Jesuit priest, said there was 'obviously a need to broaden the tax base' to fund health and education. 'I don’t think you can rule out a change to the GST on moral or ethical terms,' he said.

However, he said experts would need to determine whether to lift the rate or expand the base of the tax. 'I’d like to see a tax system that gives endorsement to anyone, rich and poor, to eat more fresh food, and that comes from someone who has eaten his share of processed food,' he said.

Fr Brennan told ABC 7.30 last night that fresh food, basic health and education should remain GST-exempt to protect low income families and the vulnerable: 'Do you look, for example, at increasing the rate of the tax on what you might call luxury items? Is it a time to start discriminating between those items which generally might attract a tax of 10 per cent; others might, say, attract a tax of 15 per cent. But that's also to be offset against the question about whether or not better revenue raising measures might be adopted looking, if you like, at the other end of the market, particularly things like superannuation and capital gains tax and things of that sort.'

FULL STORY 

Welfare leaders back GST reform (The Australian)

Tony Abbott raises tax cut prospects amid budget questions (ABC 7.30)

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