PART 5 of "The Tax Reform Bill and the Constitutional Problem"
Open Letter by David Keane, November 1998

SETTING  UP  A  PEOPLE'S  ECONOMIC  COUNCIL

True economic equity will only come when at least a majority of States combine together to demand equity and a share in income tax revenues.  For this to happen, a single State government must take the lead, and the Premier of that State must be clearly vocal over issues of taxation and economic federalism, and go out on a limb by calling upon the other States to join.

Yet the States have always been divided over such issues.  What recourse would that State government have if the States once again are divided?  There are indeed powerful actions that a single State government can do to facilitate change.  The most effective will be to establish a People's Economic Council, with majority participation direct from Non-Government Organisation (NGO) groups.  Such a Council would have no legislative powers, but would be an informal body parallel to the established government upper and lower houses.

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Such a body would be similar in composition to the People's Assembly recently suggested by the UN [United Nations] Secretary General Kofi Annan; he recommended that the year 2000 be a "Millennium Assembly focusing on preparing the UN to meet the major changes and needs of the world community in the twenty-first century, and be accompanied by a companion 'People's Assembly'."  The election of the UN People's Assembly remains still in the future, and organisational details have yet to be finalised, but the suggestion is that members be elected from the eight major entities in civil society --- religious, academia, local government, business, trade unions, professional associations, media and indigenous.

The proposal is that such a People's Council as established by a State, be given a preliminary mandate to make recommendations with respect to economic affairs.  That is, initially, its primary role will be as an Economic Council.  In particular, it will be requested to make recommendations on:

(1) The spiritual basis for sustainable economic activity that provides for the good of the whole community.  One of its preliminary roles will be to make recommendations for its own future Charter.

(2) Though members will be elected within a State, the sphere of economic interest must embrace also national and international economics.  Being just an informal body, with no legislative powers, it will not be limited by State boundaries, nor by rigidities within the Australian Constitution, as to its fields of enquiry.  It must embrace completely the principle of economic equity between the Commonwealth and the States.

(3) Its role will be visionary, to plan for a sustainable economy for our children and those of future generations.

(4) It will concern itself with the development of a national economic module for the opening of the national economy to positive forces, such as equal opportunity, privacy, freedom of information, access to essential services, and customer service obligations based upon equity, environmental sustenance and protection, guaranteed sustenance of essential services such as electrical grids, rail networks, satellite systems, gas pipelines, maintenance of roads.  Planning would be based upon promoting the common good rather than sectional interests.

(5) It would be a council of review with respect to current State and Commonwealth economic policies, particularly with respect to the ethics of Treasury and budget practices.

(6) From time to time, it will be given certain assignments as nominated by State government.  One of the first and most important of such assignments will be to make recommendations with respect to practical measures to bring about Commonwealth/State economic equity, and to clarify the possibilities and options for evolving federal economic relationships.

(7) A further important assignment will be to make recommendations to break the impasse in Commonwealth/State relationships that is stopping the implementation of the recommendations of the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Commission.

(8) Another assignment would be to develop a futuristic planning module for the economic ramifications for Australia in the event of global economic downturn, such as would be initiated by a global warming crisis, global convulsions of the Earth, the emergence of anti-biotic resistant plagues, magnetic pole reversal, World War III, partial nuclear war, or simply the collapse of the stock exchange.

(9) The People's Economic Council would combine in joint forums with People's Economic Councils from other States, if other States choose to follow the example.

It may be that at first no more than one State enters into such a bold initiative.  Yet the very establishment of such a visionary body in just one State would sow a seed of hope among the young, and would become a pivotal point for transformation of our nation into the 21st century.  NEXT

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Document 11:  Internet address = http://www.multiline.com.au/~johnm/taxcons5.htm
Electoral Authorisation: David Keane, PO Box 582, Gosnells, W.A., 6110, Australia.