Budgets should be a time when governments outline a practical vision of the future in which we share our commonwealth for a just, prosperous and equitable future. In a wealthy country such as ours, it should be a time of hope.
Instead, we have a government that is pandering to greed and short-term gain by offering tax cuts that will lead inevitably to further cuts in services. They even want to lock the tax to GDP ratio in at the irrational figure of 23.9 percent.
As a result, they have served up dollops of despair to those who are unemployed or underemployed, homeless or experiencing housing stress.
Cuts to income tax and company taxes erode the progressive nature of our tax system and punch a massive hole in government revenue. In the future, this will mean not enough money to pay for Medicare, not enough to pay for the NDIS, not enough for education and certainly not enough for a secure safety net in times of adversity.
This will mean more out-of-pocket expenses for low and middle-income earners. This is an irresponsible budget that will leave unemployed people, underemployed people, students and those struggling to pay high housing costs worse off immediately, and other low and middle-income earners worse off later.
Over the past four budgets, the government cut $15 billion from social security and community services, and billions more are in the pipeline. It is unconscionable to be pursuing massive tax cuts while these spending cuts stand, and people on the lowest incomes continue to go without food or secure housing.
If you’re locked out of a job or locked into an insecure job this Budget doesn’t even bring home the 2 Minute Noodles. It does, however, bring home the caviar for the corporates.
If you want to build a nation you need to invest in social infrastructure: social housing so everyone can have a place to call home and fairly funded education and health for all; not just those who can fork out without feeling the pinch.
If you want to build a nation you’d start with a jobs plan instead of continuing with a putting-the-boot-into-the-unemployed plan or a cutting-wages plan or an abandoning-our-young-people plan or a making-it-difficult-for-new-migrants plan
You’d lift Newstart and other low payments for the people this government persists in tearing down. Because you don’t build a nation up by tearing your people down.
And you don’t reduce inequality by doling out tax cuts to corporations whilst promising a return to surplus that can only come on the back of cuts to social expenditure that will hurt everyone bar the wealthy.
As for being an infrastructure budget, there’s nothing wrong with building rail and road, but you need much more if you want to build a nation. You need to build roads for people, not from poverty on Newstart to poverty in paid work, but out of poverty completely. Because everyone deserves a fair crack at happiness.
Dr John Falzon is a Chief Executive Officer at St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia (02 6202 1213).