How Are We? Essay

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Gillard wants to help the most needy but her new tax is hardly foolproof. ONE criticism made about the flood levy is that ''taxation'' is the wrong sort of instrument to provide disaster relief, that there is something unseemly about forcing people to give charity, especially when the recipients are our compatriots. "Mates," Tony Abbott tells us, "help each other; they don't tax each other." In a world where we could rely on people freely dipping into their pockets to solve the world's problems, there might be something to this criticism. But people don't dip into their pockets nearly often - or deep - enough. According to the Giving Australia report, published in October 2005, voluntary giving in Australia amounts to only 0.68 per cent of gross domestic product (less than half of what Americans give). Of this, only about an eighth goes to people overseas. This might explain why we resort to taxes to provide much of our foreign aid. But even the foreign aid we give through taxes - about 0.35 per cent of gross national income - is far from enough. When Haiti was rocked by an earthquake last year - a disaster far more costly in monetary and humanitarian terms - Australia provided only $15 million in aid (less than 1 per cent of the $1.8 billion that the government plans to raise through the flood levy). This is not to criticise or belittle the provision of much-needed support to flood-affected areas. It is only right that we, as fellow citizens, should support those devastated by the recent floods. But do we do enough to help those in need when they are not our ''mates"? Are fellow citizens really 100 times more deserving of our support than victims of overseas disasters? We go out of our way to help disaster victims in our own country but we incarcerate people fleeing disasters overseas. There is nothing fundamentally unjust or unfair about the idea of using

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