Peter Garrett responsible for four deaths?

Peter Garrett
Peter Garrett

I loved Midnight Oil’s “Beds are burning” both for its great anthemic quality and for the line “the time has come to say fair’s fair, to pay the rent, to pay our share“.  It’s a pity it only related to our aboriginal brothers and sisters, when it could have been employed in the broader sense, to include us all.

On radio 3AW this morning Neil Mitchell held the “Oils” lead singer, now Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett, responsible for the deaths of the four men who died installing the roofing insulation provided as part the federal government’s stimulus package. Implementing the program hastily and with insufficient training was destined to be extremely risky, if not disastrous, as it has proved to be.  As the responsible minister, maybe it could be said that Peter Garrett was ultimately responsible for the four deaths?

Neil Mitchell
Neil Mitchell

On exactly the same reasoning, Neil Mitchel, I trust you accept responsibity for the deaths of those who die for lack of daily wherewithal because of your publicly aggressive opposition to land tax?  When the ‘Harvey Report’ into Victorian state business taxes recommended reforming the land tax system you said on 28 February 2001:  “I think we (3AW) have a job … to convince the government not to do it!” Every year since then you have sympathetically taken calls from listeners claiming the state land tax to have affected them unfairly. Nevertheless, for all its distortions caused by the threshold, exemptions, multiple rates and aggregation provisions, most of which the Harvey Report had recommended reforming , it remains a fairer tax than any other state tax.  Had it been reformed along the lines of the Harvey Report recommendations, but also extended to all residential properties and increased significantly in order to replace Victoria’s share of the GST, payroll tax and stamp duty, it is arguable that Victoria’s state product would currently be double what it is today.

The reasoning behind this statement is carefully explained in “Unlocking the Riches of Oz” showing that Australia’s GDP would now be about $2 trillion instead of $1 trillion, had we captured half our publicly-generated land rent since 1972.  In other words, the deadweight costs of the taxation of thrift and industry and bursting real estate  bubbles are in fact costing Australians some $1 trillion dollars a year.  That’s an incredible amount.  If the Australian public were also to get a better return (than the crimnially low 10 cents a tonne) for the natural resources we ship overseas, it is quite arguable that most taxes could be scrapped, and that every man woman and child could receive a citizens’ dividend that would abolish the need for pensions and superannuation.  I hope people might peruse the reasoning accompanying the spreadsheet figures in “Unlocking the Riches of Oz” before they were to dismiss this apparently exaggerated claim.

So, I agree that there is, unfortunately, a sense in which Peter Garrett is responsible for the four deaths of the roof insulation installers. But I also consider that your spreading disinformation on land tax has done similarly, Neil. At a minimum, it has acted to reduce Victoria’s gross state product to favour real estate speculation, and is at least partly responsible for Victoria’s decline into the GFC.

A big call?  Maybe.  But yours this morning on Peter Garratt was no less so.