May 17, 2014

Budget Bugbears

When the federal budget was handed down this week my initial reaction was less anger than I have now.

No, there is not actually a "budget emergency", and the constant spam about Labor's "spending" is unfair given we are actually talking about economic stimulus following the GFC - but, we do have a big deficit and it has to be fixed, and that means cuts to things we don't want to cut.

So, cuts to the public service? Expected. Not good - in some cases no doubt, terrible - but expected.

Return of the fuel excise? Not that terrible, a sensible measure.

Cuts to renewable energy programs? Totally expected given we all know where this government stands on that.

Cuts to family tax benefits? Both sides have had this on the agenda and the cuts were less than expected.

The income tax levy on higher-income earners: surprising for a coalition government, though of course it's not permanent.

But these things make me angry, firstly because they're wrong, but perhaps even more than that, because they are lies - they are nothing to do with fixing a "budget emergency", but are about ideology:

  • $20 billion medical research fund. Medical research and science are absolutely great and all, but this is wrong for two reasons. Firstly, if we are truly in the grip of a dire budget emergency and all sorts of cuts have to be made, why commit to this now? Secondly, it is funded by huge cuts to public health funding, and the outrageous GP "co-payment". Somehow I feel like this has Tony Abbott's health freakery stamped all over it. I don't know how, but you know, "it's the vibe of the thing".
  • $7 GP "co-payment" - very harsh, will have unintended (but entirely predictable) consequences, and it goes entirely against what Medicare is. Plus, it is nothing to do with fixing finances. $2 will go to the doctors (probably just to cover the admin required) and $5 to fund the medical research future fund. It is wrong, and unfair. 
  • Cuts to welfare generally. Abbott says we have to "break the welfare mindset". Well, there isn't one. Sure, there was in the past, from some people. But welfare bludging hasn't been a thing for years. People receiving disability pensions, Newstart and the like are already on the breadline. And also, why does "everyone" have to "chip in" to fix the deficit? Spread the pain, sure, but spare the very bottom. And yes, you could take a bit more from the top without hobbling business and waging class warfare.  
  • Funding increased for school chaplaincy program (despite growing public resistance to it) with removal of the current option for schools to use the funding to appoint a secular student welfare officer. It's religion or nothing. Sorry, but are we, or are we not, a secular state? And how can increased funding be found for school chaplains when school funding itself is being cut and we are in a budget emergency? Because the program is less about student welfare than proselytizing, that's why.

Look, for most of us it's not the end of the world. Times are tough economically, and things need to be done. This budget is not a total horror. I get sick of the silliness that is pervading public debate at the moment - that Abbott is evil, that Labor did no wrong whatsoever, that the government is sure to lose the next election (two years out!) based on its current unpopularity.  I'm a measured person, and the truth for me is always in the middle.

But there are things that many of us are unhappy with, and I'll leave the last word to Mike Carlton at the SMH, who wrote this week:
It is a delicious irony that Abbott has destroyed the faith the voters placed in him. Endlessly blackguarding Julia Gillard for her broken carbon tax promise and trumpeting himself as a paragon of probity, he raised the bar.
On Tuesday he fell beneath it, face down in the mud, and will never be trusted again.


  1. It is an extremely unbalanced budget with the heavy lifting (a term which makes me snarl) done mostly from those least able to do it. The deficit levy is temporary. The freeze on politicians and parliamentary secretaries is temporary. The politicians super continues to be generously indexed - and available as soon as they leave politics. The hits at the other end? Permanent. And how does a young job seeker support himself/herself for six months of the year with no income? Not all of them have families, and of those that do not all of the families can continue to support them. Hiss and spit.
    And there are a couple of other little stings in the tail. Legal aid has been savaged. A government contribution to the superannuation of low income earners has been axed - while those at the other end of the scale continue to do very well.
    Love Mike Carlton's quote.
    It will be interesting to see how much of it gets through the Senate - and in what form.

    1. Yes that will be interesting indeed

  2. Everything that EC said, plus>>>how will the young job seekers find work when everyone is holding their jobs until they drop dead?
    Politicians super? Don't get me started. I can start myself...if I had as generous a super account, I wouldn't qualify for a pension, yet those #%* get both. HOW DARE THEY???

    1. Politicians' super and pensions... this particular item makes me MAD. HOW DARE THEY - YES.

  3. What you all say. The fact that they've defunded some very profitable agencies makes not sense to me at all. They've defunded the Freedom of Information agency - LIKE WHAT ELSE ARE THEY HIDING. I'm going to a rally tomorrow. May be futile but it makes me feel better.

    1. I think you attend a rally not so much to change something but to show the government that you are unhappy / will not accept what's being done without a fight. Those are important too.

  4. In my opinion as I don't live in Australia is not good budget. Priorities are different in every country.

  5. More religion and less help for the poor? Sounds just like America. And for that, I'm so, so, so sorry!

    1. That is our fear here, Scott. America is a great country but we hate that our conservative politicians want to emulate these aspects!



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