Children can’t vote so they have no say in how their country is governed. They must rely on we adults to protect their interests and to be their advocates.
So where do children rate in the Coalition’s priorities?
After assuring us that there was absolutely no difference between Labor and Liberal on education, the government has signed up the remaining states and territory to the Gonski reforms without the required state co-funding or performance obligations. They have reneged on the bulk of the spending which was to happen in years 5 and 6. MYEFO also contained more than $1.5 billion in education cuts, including ending the trades training centre program and slashing before and after school care assistance by $450 million.
They are throwing out the recently adopted national curriculum, the product of 26,000 submissions from concerned parties, and several years’ work by experts in the field, in favour of a rewrite that inflates the importance of capitalism in our national identity and the contribution of Conservative parties to our development, with emphasis on our Judeo-Christian heritage.
They have cut the Schoolkids Bonus which provided lower income families with a small payment when it was needed most to help pay for uniforms, books and school fees.
1240 children of defence personnel killed or badly injured in service will have their income support bonus of $211 a year cut. Among them are children aged under 16 who are homeless or are living away from home. The payments cost $260,000 a year but Senator Ronaldson said the money for the payments was not there. After all, that’s another orange liferaft we’re talking!
Cory Bernardi, Eric Abetz, and Kevin Andrews have all made it clear to children who are not living with their married biological parents that their lives are not what they could have been if only their parents had stayed together, and that this is why they will probably end up promiscuous or in gaol.
Childcare workers were asked to refund a pay rise, and regulations requiring improved qualifications were scrapped. These people who have the responsibility of nurturing our children at a crucial stage in their development are to be ignored.
Aboriginal Early Childhood Support and Learning Inc (AECSL), a NSW organisation which has been funded by the federal government for over two decades, received an email one week before Christmas explaining that all of their funding will be withdrawn.
The PCYC had $7 million of promised funds cut from youth mentoring programs in disadvantaged areas, including the ”Making Men” and ”Girl’s Choice” projects to steer young people away from a life of crime.
The Women in Prison Advocacy Network, which was promised $297,000 to start a youth mentoring program in inner-city Sydney and the La Perouse and Maroubra areas, has also had its funding cut.
The National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy had secured a total of $600,000 for programs for indigenous youth in Sydney and Dubbo but was warned the money was under review.
Wangaratta and Wodonga’s Junction Support Services, which applied for $305,559 for its youth re-engagement program, has been told by local state MP Bill Tilley that it may not get the money.
These four programs were funded from the proceeds of crime through the National Crime Prevention Agency, not government general revenue, so it appears that, rather than it being the criminals, or our children, it will be the budget bottom line which now benefits.
This year, almost 14,000 Aboriginal children were in “out-of-home-care”, more than were removed at any time during the Stolen Generations, yet the administrators of the Indigenous Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service (IFVPLS) will lose $3.6 million in funding over the next three years, despite them being the “go-to” office for Indigenous women in regional towns for a myriad of problems, not just family violence, due to their compassionate, culturally sensitive practice. This required about 0.1% of the money that Tony Abbott is prepared to spend on unmanned drones.
The Australian Council of Social Service released a report in November last year stating that 575,000 children or 17.3% were living below the poverty line. Rather than heeding the growing warnings about the dangers of increasing income inequity by increasing Newstart and rolling out the NDIS, we are removing penalty rates, and perhaps abolishing the minimum wage and charging a $6 co-payment to see the doctor. At the same time we are offering amnesties to offshore tax cheats, cuts in company tax for big business, many billions in subsidies to banks, mining companies and private health insurers, and a whole special tax zone so our very richest citizens can pay no tax at all. Nice call Gina.
In the area of health, Westmead Children’s Hospital will lose $100 million in funding for the first stage of a comprehensive redevelopment, while the Children’s Medical Research Institute will lose $10 million and the Millennium Institute will lose $12 million.
There are over 1000 children held in immigration detention facilities. As the tragic events on Manus Island unfolded, there was barely a murmur about what was occurring in the second offshore imprisonment site of Nauru, with 10 unaccompanied children forcibly sent there from Christmas Island; more have now followed.
In a few years’ time our children will be faced with a huge bill to replace an inadequate national broadband network that the government wasted tens of billions of dollars building.
They will be faced with the challenge of providing public transport in our cities because all the money was wasted on building roads when our cities have no space for the cars and the pollution becomes intolerable.
And that is the greatest crime that this government is committing. Our children will be able to rectify bad policies and decisions. Society will eventually realise that an equitable distribution of resources is essential in generally lifting the standard of living. But only if they still have a viable planet to live on.
This government’s headlong dash into the rape and pillage of our environment with no thought to the cost is unconscionable. They claim to accept the science, all of which points to catastrophic climate change unless we take urgent action. They then cap funding to achieve this at $3.2 billion over the next four years during which time they will hand out about $9.4 billion in fossil fuel subsidies
They are prepared to spend $3.2 billion to save the planet, but for the same period they have allocated $22 billion for paid parental leave, welfare for the rich which we can only guess at the actual future cost for something that will become an entrenched entitlement.
They remove carbon pricing and approve huge new coal mines. Environmental safeguards have been abolished and the message is let’s get fracking.
They cap the funding for Direct Action but Operation Sovereign Borders has unlimited funding – “whatever it takes”.
Our children and their future are unimportant to a party who is driven by short term corporate greed. But don’t dismiss them lightly Mr Abbott. Social media has bridged the generation gap and is correcting the misinformation and building solidarity. I saw many children at the March in March. They grow up. In three or four years’ time those kids from Newtown High will be voting. In the mean time, we oldies will keep spreading the truth and holding this government to account.
I look forward to the growing voice of the youth of this country.
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