Well, here we are in the year 2000. Not, we must insist, in the third millennium, but in the year 2000.
From the very earliest times when man began to understand something of chronology, which is the science of time, there evolved a system of measuring epochs or eras, nearly always based on the lifetime of some notable figure, generally what we would today call a king. So we read of events in Jewish history that occurred “in the year that King Uzziah died”, for example, or in the Roman and Athenian republics, an event was said, by Herodotus, to have occurred “when Plancus was Consul” or “in the archonship of Kallixenos”. Similarly, in Asia, dating was associated with the ruling dynasty and the late Japanese Emperor Hirohito, for example, ascended the throne in what his subjects regarded as the two thousand, five hundred and eighty sixth year of the dynasty founded by the first Emperor Jimmu, sixty-nine generations previously. Chinese events and objects, too, are dated as belonging to, for example, “the one hundred and eighty sixth year of the Tang dynasty”.
The modern chronological system is no different. Today, events are calculated as happening either BC or AD; that is, either “before Christ”, or “anno domini”¸ meaning “the year of the Lord”. The religious significance of our system of measuring the years has largely been forgotten, but it was not always so. In 1793, the National Convention of the first French republic, flexing its anti-clerical and atheistic muscles, abolished the common era in civil affairs and decreed that a new era would commence on the foundation of the republic, 22nd September 1792. Thus commenced the first year of the new era; Year One of the Revolution and after that year had been completed, Year Two of the Revolution began. This nonsense was abolished by Napoleon in 1806.
But in the same way, the year 2000 is the two thousandth year of the Lord, and the new millennium will not be entered into until this year has been completed, despite the partying to the contrary. The Jews, on the other hand, use the Creation, as recorded in the book of Genesis, as the starting point for their calendar and, to them, this year is the year 5761, or thereabouts. Phew! Anyway, the party’s over and we are certainly not advocating sending up another few million in smoke at the end of this year.
As we look ahead from the vantage point of January, 2000, we are entitled to feel somewhat nervous. This year is the year of the GST, described by its promoters as a Goods and Services tax, but more aptly described as a “grab and snatch tax”. Prime Minister Howard believes that it is his destiny to go down in history as the man who reformed the taxation system and enabled the Government to have its palm greased in every transaction that takes place anywhere in Australia at any time. We should not be surprised at this. Mr. Howard is the man who, as Treasurer in the deplorable and detestable Fraser Government, gave us the 60% marginal rate of income tax, as well as interest rates of 24%. His gift, if you can call it that, is to destroy initiative and extract funds, at unprecedented levels, from already over-burdened taxpayers.
Bu that is not all. Mr. Howard has celebrated the advent of what he believes is the new millennium, by endeavouring to shift the focus on his Government from the GST to social policy. In making his pitch for a social coalition, including a greater role for business in welfare, Mr. Howard said, “Few Australians still believe that the answer to pressing social problems lies solely in the hands of the Government. Even fewer believe that simply spending more taxpayers’ money is the answer.” The Prime Minister could have put it another way, i.e., “Most Australians believe that the responsibility for Australia’s pressing social problems lies solely in the hands of Government and that those few who believe that spending more money is the answer are, in the main, resident in Canberra.”
The notion that big business, greedier and fatter than at any time in our history, will lend a helping hand to the needy is laughable. Where was this philanthropic attitude when banks were closing down branches in the bush in the hundreds? How many old age pensioners will sleep better if they think that their benefits, earned in a lifetime of paying taxes, are now payable at the whim of the Kerry Packers and Rupert Murdochs? We would be the first to say that the welfare sector is fraught with lurks, waste and shonky practices. But it is government’s responsibility to make the system work, not business. It’s a matter of management, not getting more players into the game.
Amazingly enough, Mr. Howard believes that Australians are more interested in welfare reform and tax reform than they are in the fact that our country is being invaded by illegal immigrants, mostly Muslims, assisted by the world’s largest Muslim nation, Indonesia. He has little to say about the destabilisation of our country by our closest, and most powerful, neighbour. Evidently, welfare reform will not be applied to the illegal immigrants, who are given cash benefit and Medicare entitlements, as well as free accommodation, as soon as they step ashore. We wonder, too, whether welfare reform will be applied to the aboriginal industry, or whether those Australians who describe themselves as indigenous, will continue to be treated differently to the rest of us.