While the former Coalition Government was never one to consider the frail, elderly, unwell or jobless as full members of society, you would expect better from an ALP Government. Perhaps we are expecting too much.
Various Ministers have crowed from the rooftops that social security payments have risen, which they have, but only because they are indexed every six months. We’ve also had Ministers tell us that various requests made to them to increase social security payments to a level where people can afford to pay the ever-increasing rent as well as put meals on the table the same week are unaffordable. Similar responses have been made about some of the funding requested for the Olympic Games in Brisbane, renewable energy, medical services or drugs that will either prolong life or make whatever life people have left more bearable, and the list goes on.
Anyone who drives a new car out of a showroom will realise sooner or later there are newer cars around with a greater level of technology, better fuel economy, different features or more comfort. Once the realisation has been made, there are in reality two options, either trade the car in on the newer one with the desired ‘better’ feature and be forced to rinse and repeat consistently or accept that the newer model may be able to do something better than the car you drive. It’s the same with electrical appliances. The latest model television may be able to do something faster or produce a better picture and certainly will have more acronyms on the box than the 10 year old television in your lounge room. But economically is it worth upgrading when you can still see Opposition Leader Dutton routinely saying ‘no’ regardless of the question on the ol’ faithful? Of course, you might have to purchase a new television if you throw something at it when Dutton is being completely obnoxious.
Apparently it’s the same with submarines. It seems that in the typical thought process of those who like the latest ‘bright and shiny thing’, our former Coalition government and some in the defence community have for the past decade been playing games rather than making a decision and sticking with it. First, we were to buy Japanese submarines, then the ‘better’ French ones and now apparently we are getting some really schmick ones from the US until a jointly designed submarine is conceived and built in the 2040s that must be better still – but no one knows because it hasn’t been built yet! One wonders if there is a notion that if anyone really wants to invade Australia have they have agreed to wait until the 2040s as well?
The Monthly suggests that
We all surely shared a sense of inner glow at this implied prosperity, but then as The Australia Institute’s Richard Denniss points out, “Australia is an incredibly rich country, our GDP per capita ranks eighth largest in the world … our public debt to GDP ratio remains way below the OECD average. Likewise, we are a low-taxing country, even before we blow another quarter of a trillion dollars on the Stage Three tax cuts.”
More on tax in a moment, but even if it turns out that we can afford submarines, did we really want them? Was there public debate? A series of rigorous green and white papers leading to a full-throated and exhaustive parliamentary examination of the proposal? Not quite. It was a deal hatched in the cabinet-of-a-secret-handful presided over by the member for Walter Mitty, Scott Morrison. A deal then ratified and made concrete by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese without even the superficial consensuality of a Labor partyroom vote. These are the quiet wheels of “democratic” power, acting in our best interest without ever investigating our sense of what that interest might be.
The Monthly goes on to quote the author of the (generally ignored) 2010 review on taxation in Australia, Ken Henry
“Right now, Commonwealth tax revenue should be at least 2 per cent of GDP higher. That’s about $50 billion a year in today’s money. And, given the pressures of accelerating spending on defence, healthcare, aged care and disability support, among others, we are clearly going to have to raise the tax-to-GDP ratio even higher over the decades ahead.”
While Albanese’s Government can always claim that the AUKUS submarine decision was made before they came to power, there is clearly a need to have a conversation with Australia that discusses why half a trillion (or thereabouts) dollars spent on nuclear submarines and tax cuts is acceptable, while spending on health care, transport, energy security, genuine attempts to mitigate climate change and the host of other initiatives that could make Australia a far more equal, healthy and caring society are subject to budgetary pressures.
Sadly, the magic pudding always was a fiction.
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