There is something surreal about the current GST debate. Let me try to put the politics of the issue aside and explain what makes the issue so confusing for the Community.

In the current global environment, the motivation for increasing the rate of the GST or applying it to fresh food and other exempt goods is to raise more revenue. The problem is that a GST is inherently regressive. In other words, it hits low to middle income earners including pensioners, harder than higher income earners.

When John Howard introduced the 10% GST he did a number of things to overcome this problem. He abolished the Wholesale Sales Tax (WST) which was raising billions of dollars annually. He also increased pensions and other benefits, provided income tax cuts, reduced petrol excise and compensated self-funded retirees.

If the GST is increased, there is no longer any WST to abolish. So the income tax cuts and benefit increases would need to be so large the Government would be no better off.

So the Government only really has two choices; leave the GST as is, or raise it and under-compensate people. I suggest most if not all readers will prefer the first option.

Thank you to Jan Williams and all involved in the organisation of the Cessnock pool anniversary celebrations. It was a great occasion appreciated particularly by those like me, who have been regular users of the facility all our lives.

I pay tribute to those charged with managing, supervising and keeping the pool and its amenities clean and tidy.

I’ve enjoyed a swim in pools right around the country and indeed, overseas. I’ve found no more clean and pleasant pool than Cessnock’s.

Last Saturday was World Diabetes Day across the globe. It was a chance to raise awareness and reflect on the devastating impact of diabetes here in Australia and across the world.

The global statistics are staggering. There are now 387 million people with diabetes and the number is set to rise beyond 592 million. Our region, the Western Pacific, has the highest diabetes rates in the world.

In Australia there are around 1.7 million people with diabetes costing the Australian economy around $14.6 billion per annum. This is forecast to increase to $30 billion by 2025. The enormity of these figures highlight the fact that responding to diabetes is not simply a health issue but an economic imperative.

In the Hunter electorate there are 8190 people registered with the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) including 928 living with type 1 diabetes, 7047 living with type 2 diabetes and 169 women experiencing gestational diabetes. This represents 5.34 per cent of our community. Across Australia this places Hunter 53rd.

Australia needs a stronger response to the challenge of diabetes. If we don’t act with a response befitting the size of the epidemic, then our health system will simply be consumed in dealing with the burden of diabetes-related healthcare.

Please beware of scammers imitating Department of Human Services or Centrelink officers to trick you into handing over your money or personal details.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has received a spike in contacts about fake rebate scams in which the scammer claims to be from Centrelink or the Department of Human Services.

If you receive a phone call out of the blue from someone claiming to be from a government department and they claim that you are entitled to money, hang up.

If you have any doubts about the identity of any caller who claims to represent a business, organisation or government department, contact the body directly. Don’t rely on numbers, email addresses or websites provided by the caller – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search.

Never give your personal, credit card or online account details over the phone unless you made the call and the phone number came from a trusted source. If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.

I am always keen to assist with issues or questions relating to Federal Government departments or put you in contact with someone who can, so please ring, write, visit the website or call in.

Why not go the extra step by following me on my Facebook page “Joel Fitzgibbon” or on Twitter and type in the search bar “fitzhunter”. Or by regularly checking my website at www.joelfitzgibbon.com or you can even sign up to my E-Newsletter.

To contact the office, phone 1300 301 753, visit www.joelfitzgibbon.com or by post 3 Edward Street, (PO Box 526) Cessnock, 2325.

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