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Finance (Local Property Tax) Bill 2012: Second Stage (Continued)

Friday, 14 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 4

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  5 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace] The ultimate trump card for the defenders of neoliberalism, however, is that there is no alternative, as the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Rabbitte, said on RTE radio this morning. Communist societies, social democracies and even modest social welfare states have all failed, the neoliberals proclaim, and their citizens have accepted neoliberalism as the only feasible course. It may well be imperfect but it is the only economic system possible, they argue.

  Neoliberalism operates not only as an economic system but as a political and cultural system. It works best when there is a formal electoral democracy but not when the population is diverted from the information, access and public fora necessary for meaningful participation in decision making. As neoliberal guru Milton Friedman put it in his Capitalism and Freedom, because profitmaking is the essence of democracy, any government that pursues anti-market policies is being anti-democratic.

  What we are left with is a political philosophy that amounts to a trivial debate over minor issues by parties that basically pursue the same pro-business policies regardless of formal differences and campaign debate. Democracy is permissible, as long as the control of business is off limits to popular deliberation or change. The neoliberal system, therefore, has an important and necessary by-product - a depoliticised citizenry marked by apathy and cynicism. We have that by the bucketful now. Could one blame our citizens?

Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I would like to start by voicing my opposition to the Government's use of the guillotine on this legislation. This is the second time it has happened in two days. Yesterday, the guillotine was used on the Social Welfare Bill. Such a move intentionally stifles much-needed parliamentary debate on these two critical Bills.

Before the last general election, the government parties talked a good talk about reform, a new type of politics and a meaningful role for Dáil Éireann. It turns out that it was just that - talk. There has been no democratic revolution, no maturing of political debate nor any meaningful role devised for Dáil Éireann.

I am not trying to convince the Minister for Finance of anything on this property tax. The arrogance of this Cabinet has rendered it incapable of listening to other people's ideas. Instead, I will use the few minutes I have to give a voice to those who cannot pay and to those who should not pay this tax. Starting with those who cannot pay, one in five mortgages is now either in arrears or is being restructured. One child out of ten is now in food poverty. Two adults out of every three have less than €100 a month when bills are paid. That was before their PRSI was raised and their child benefit was cut this week. Does the Minister think they will have a few hundred euro spare at the end of next year to give him?

As for those who should not pay, on what exactly are we taxing those who paid tens of thousands of euro in stamp duty and are now in negative equity? We are taxing their debts. Before the last election, the Government promised to help people caught in that trap. Instead, it has increased their income tax, cut their child benefit and caved into the banks on finding meaningful solutions to distressed mortgages. To top it off, the Government is now going to tax them on the debt that has financially destroyed them but, somehow, it will exempt first-time buyers from the tax, an extraordinary move.

This is not a wealth tax. If it were, the Government would not tax people in negative equity. It is not to raise money for local services. If it were, the Government would tax the occupier of the house who uses the local services and it would fully adjust for regional variations in prices. It is not a progressive tax. If it were, there would not be this meaningless single jump at €1 million. This tax is not fair. If it were, stamp duty would be considered and people in Wicklow, Dublin and other urban areas would not have to pay multiples of what other areas will pay. Most of all, this tax is not necessary. The figure used for how much this tax will raise is €500 million. It is not. Taking out €500 million from the economy is going to reduce economic activity. Using the Government's own multiplier, the Government will raise €350 million from this tax. However, next year's Exchequer figures include pay rises of €700 million for public servants over the past four years. The property tax will raise half the amount needed for pay rises to public sector workers. So much for paying for vital public services.

I have tabled amendments for Committee Stage that address all the issues I have raised but not one will be taken. If those on the government backbenches believe they have a role that can influence legislation, will they tell the Minister they will not vote this Bill through next week in its current form?

Winston Churchill said, “For a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket trying to lift himself up by the handle.” Good luck with that.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins The Finance (Local Property Tax) Bill is one of the most odious Bills to come before the Dáil in many a year. It is a tax to transfuse even more of the economic lifeblood of ordinary Irish people to the parasitic bondholders and bankers in the European financial market system and those gamblers who lost in their speculation on the Irish property bubble. Two Quisling Governments have salvaged them with a criminal austerity agenda making working class people pay instead. Labour and Fine Gael will go down in infamy for this legislation which will transform the homes of ordinary people from what should be a place of happiness and respite from a turbulent world into a source of constant insecurity and worry with a yearly tax demanded, along with draconian penalties and sanctions implied.

Each and every Labour Member who votes for this new home tax is guilty of sordid treachery against working class people. They have betrayed the people they pledged to protect during the general election campaign. Once the people get the opportunity, they will be swept aside and dumped as comprehensively and contemptuously as their Fianna Fáil predecessors were.

The Government cannot be allowed think that because it has given responsibility for this tax to the Revenue Commissioners, with the power to deduct it from source, that it has, therefore, an intimidated population at its mercy. The Revenue Commissioners will rue the day they were given responsibility for the administration and the attempt to collect the poisoned chalice that is the property tax. Revenue will face massive, prolonged, active and organised opposition. It will face a massive boycott of the process of registration and payment for the home tax in April, May, June and July next year. Revenue, if it tries to cow and intimidate decent taxpayers with draconian penalties, interest, court action and fines, will be fought in house-to-house combat with an organised campaign with regional and national solidarity. Revenue, if it instructs employers to deduct this home tax from workers' wages, will face strike action in both public and private sector workplaces as workers will move, inevitably, to defend their already much assaulted wages from a new, unjust and unjustified imposition.

Let no one take seriously the weasel words we heard today from some government Deputies who squealed about a possible injustice and unfairness to the home tax payers of Dublin because of higher house prices there. That is a cheap ploy to divert attention from their treachery and to curry favour with the constituents they are actively betraying in voting for this Bill. This will be in vain. The Government will not face division between urban and rural on the property tax issue but the national solidarity of working people, the unemployed and pensioners. There will be a common and national fight in solidarity against injustice.

Let us have no more of the mendacious formulations that the property tax is a broadening of the tax base.

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