With the barrage of announcements, pork barrelling, and white noise that we endure during an election campaign it is easy be distracted from the big picture.
Everyone, including me, is waiting to see Morrison’s budget but I won’t be as interested in the bottom line (other than to see if I win the pool) as I will be to see how our money is being spent.
What are the priorities to provide a better society?
- Climate change and the environment
As we can’t exist on a dead planet, this must be the most urgent priority. Every year we delay pricing carbon, every extra tonne of coal we mine, increases the cost of mitigation to the next generation and the likelihood of catastrophic weather events now and into the future.
Coalition Senators George Brandis and Fiona Nash have only this week reiterated the deniers’ claim that “the science isn’t settled“.
Unless we are healthy, both mentally and physically, then we cannot fully participate in society and achieve our potential. Money spent on preventive and primary health care should be seen as an investment rather than a cost.
As for any election promises like no cuts to hospitals…
“I had a commitment for a $10 million allocation to the Wangaratta hospital that, if elected, I was going to announce the week after the election. That is $10 million that Wangaratta hasn’t had because Cathy [McGowan] got elected,” Ms Mirabella said.
“I rang Abbott’s office and said ‘the only thing I have going for me up here is the smile on my face.’ That was when they said I could have $5 million but that was it,’ Mr Joyce told Mr Windsor. And then, without any shame, he said it. ‘You know, Tony, until you decided not to run I had the money for the Armidale Hospital.”
In a wealthy country like ours, all children should have access to a quality education that gives even our poorest an opportunity to succeed. We should provide whatever resources are necessary to cater to the individual needs of our students – from childcare, through school, to vocational training and tertiary education.
Increasingly we have seen the added wealth created by the fruits of labour go to the owners of the capital until we have come to the obscene position where 62 people have a combined wealth equal to that of the bottom 50% of the global population.
In Australia, the top 10 CEOs reported earnings totalling $99.63 million in 2014. However, these CEOs also exercised options and received shares under long term incentive schemes, bringing the total value of cash and equity to $171.4 million with Ramsay Health Care’s Chris Rex topping the list at $30.8 million.
For workers paying tax, the middle income was around $55,000 per year. If pensioners who do not pay tax are included, that figure was closer to $45,000 per year. When you hear politicians talk about “the average wage”, be aware that four out of five Australians earn less than the average ($75,000 in 2014).
- Domestic violence
In 2014, there were 95 victims of family and domestic violence-related homicide offences.
There were 54,000 victims of family and domestic violence-related assault offences recorded by police. This is without the data from two of Australia’s biggest states, Queensland and Victoria, and includes only the incidents where the police have been involved. By some estimates, only half of assaults are reported to police.
There were 12,561 women who were victims of assault in NSW in 2014. That’s 34 a day. Of those, 9651 were assaults by a partner and another 2993 were ex-partners.
This is an epidemic which far outweighs any other threat to our safety or national security.
Research carried out by the CSIRO and our universities is crucial for our future. They are the problem solvers and the withdrawal of public funding is in danger of changing them from the custodians of our future to the lackeys of big business.
- Indigenous disadvantage
The punitive measures adopted by successive governments to deal with indigenous disadvantage – truancy officers, mandatory sentencing, income management, forced removal of children – are patently not working as shown by the high incarceration rate, low health and education outcomes, poverty and domestic violence.
We should value and protect the knowledge of the original custodians of this country, admire their resilience and ingenuity, and treasure the culture of the oldest continuing civilisation on the planet.
- Youth unemployment
Nothing is more soul-destroying than being unable to get a job. So many of our children find themselves, after they have completed their education, unable to take that next step towards becoming a contributing productive member of society. We extinguish the enthusiasm of youth and rob them of self-esteem as they face rejection day after day. How are they to gain experience, how are they to get ahead, if we don’t give them a start? Leaving this resource idle can also lead to socially unacceptable behaviour.
For a multitude of reasons, it is in everyone’s best interests to get kids working. It is also in our best interests to take advantage of the wealth of experience of mature aged workers that is going to waste.
- Homelessness and housing affordability
In 2014-15, 256,000 people received assistance from homelessness services, and a further 120,000 were turned away. More than 70,000 children received assistance; this includes 42,000 who were under 10. 41,780 lone young people (aged 15-24) approached homelessness services. 70% of the unmet requests included the need for accommodation. For a single person with children, this rose to 93% of cases.
Anglicare’s 2016 Rental Affordability Snapshot, which looked at almost 15,000 rental listings across one weekend, found only two properties advertised across greater Sydney and the Illawarra which were affordable for a single parent with one child. Couples on the aged pension fared the best across the 14,774 listings, with 54 suitable properties identified. This compared with 14 for single pensioners and 12 for couples on Newstart with two children.
- Positive Aging
In November 2013, the Federal Government announced that the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing was to be scrapped – at a saving of just over $1 million a year. The chair of the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing, Mr Everald Compton, told ABC Radio: “We’ve only got six months work to go and we can give the government a blueprint on all the legislative and policy and financial changes that need to be progressively made over the next 25 years to make sure we turn ageing into an asset rather than a liability. And I find it a little hard to understand why, when we’re so close to finishing something that we’ve had some years of work in, that it’s chopped off and that the government does not appear to want a report on how ageing is going to hit Australia.”
In December 2013, the Coalition dumped a $1.2 billion fund set up by Labor which would have given aged care workers a 1 per cent pay rise on top of award increases.
The 2014 budget abolished the Pensioner Education Supplement, for a saving of $281 million, and axed the planned pilot of Supporting Senior Australians: Housing Help For Seniors, a $173 million program that was to encourage older Australians to downsize to smaller dwellings.
To allow our disabled and their carers to participate productively in society this crucial service must be rolled out as quickly as possible with eligibility expanded.
- Tax avoidance
We must legislate to make corporations and wealthy individuals pay the appropriate amount of taxation to the society that provides them with an educated, skilled, healthy workforce and the infrastructure and stability they need to do business.
- Corruption and political donations
The continuing scandals highlighting corruption in business and politics makes a National Integrity watchdog crucial. There must be reform about political donations and independence in the appointment of public positions.
We should immediately free those who are still incarcerated despite having been granted refugee status and bring them here, expand our intake, and develop better support services. We should also change the language about asylum seekers and Muslims and try to undo the damage that Tony Abbott and his cohorts have caused to our social cohesion. Humane behaviour should not be a hard decision.
- And for pity’s sake, give us a real NBN.
These are just a few issues I consider more important than slogans about innovation and agility and hearing how we will support entrepreneurs and protect venture capitalists. The question is will the budget deliver on any of them?
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