After Mr Morrison told the country on Monday he had presided over 8 budgets, 3 as treasurer and 4 as Prime Minister, Mr Frydenberg then delivered last night his fourth budget, which of course leads to Mr Morrison’s inability to correctly do simple addition. I should also say at the outset this budget is a pork barrel of promises, which as reported in The Guardian yesterday, promises which in the sum of ten billion dollars of our money is being used by the Morrison Government to target specific seats which they hope to retain if they’re not unanimously voted out of office.
In relation to the “promises”, they are made by a government which failed to protect the nation regarding the deadly bushfires of 2019 (aloha Scott and Jenny relaxing on the beach in Hawaii, the former fire chiefs did forewarn you), failed to introduce a Federal ICAC, failed to build the pork barrel carparks promised at the last election, failed to build the Southeast Queensland infrastructure which they promised before the 2019 election – and which Mr Morrison subsequently announced again as an election promise for the upcoming election – failed to keep the nation safe regarding Covid-19 easily entering the country by the disembarking passengers from the Ruby Princess, failed to protect the nation regarding building fit for purpose quarantine centres to house citizens returning from overseas who had contracted Covid-19 and its variants (hotel quarantine was only meant to be a temporary solution), failed to deliver the vaccine rollout in a timely manner (it was actually a race, Mr Morrison), failed to protect the elderly in Aged Care from contracting Covid-19, failed in relation to urging the states to open up early when the Omicron variant had entered Australia, and finally, failed to assist flood-affected residents of Queensland and New South Wales in a timely manner, including giving Queenslanders the big “don’t care gesture” by only paying a third of compensation for damage which was otherwise paid to the flood affected residents of New South Wales.
That is quite a list of failures which one would expect a government of twenty years to accrue, let alone a government of 3 years. I do not raise these failings by the Morrison Government in jest, rather, I raise them because any “promises” in last night’s budget must be measured against the failures to deliver on promises, and proper governance. As for any Liberals raising JobKeeper as some form of accomplishment, it was only introduced by the Morrison Government after they were heavily lobbied by Mr Albanese, Ms McManus and Mr Combet, and the Morrison Government still failed on that imitative as well by appearing to allow billions of dollars to be paid to undeserving companies.
Last night’s budget was the worst budget I have ever witnessed be delivered by either of the two major political parties in my now 46 years of taking an interest in politics and economics. Before the Trojan warriors of Liberal trolls come out to attack me about my 46 years of interest or understanding about those two topics, may I explain my Grandfather, Flying Officer Hector Spring DFC, was a genius who obtained degrees in economics and commerce at the University of Queensland, and he taught economics to my late mother Jill Spring, who was also up there at a genius level of academia which included her achieving 97% on her senior certificate for English, and finally my stepfather who also possesses genius level intelligence and he studied economics as well at the University of Queensland. So, when Mr Whitlam was dismissed by the Governor-General Sir John Kerr on 11 November 1975, when I was as a 6-year-old child, from that moment onwards I took a very keen interest in any discussions around our house about politics and economics. I am not saying I’m a genius, but I have been exposed to some very intelligent observations about the two topics over that 46-year period. In any event, let us also move on from discussions about pedigree and heritage.
Only a true rusted on Liberal Party member and their partisan media supporters would try to argue the budget was anything other than a cynical last-gasp attempt by an incompetent and out of touch Federal Government looking down the tunnel of political oblivion. Let us start with the once off handout of between $250.00 to $420.00 to “assist” poor and middle-income families with the skyrocketing costs of living. For almost 9 years now we have witnessed stagnant wages growth. KPMG reported earlier this month there was some wages growth, but that was in the non-unionised workforce, in other words the professional sector or like businesses. Otherwise, over 90% of the workforce has not seen any significant growth since Mr Abbott famously ate a raw onion. So, if we use the number 9 as our rough figure of division, last night Mr Morrison and Mr Frydenberg said you are only worth about $28.00 to $46.00 per year regarding this one-off payment to purportedly help you with the skyrocketing costs of living, which is not a recent phenomenon, as costs of energy, house prices, health costs and groceries have been increasing since 2013, just to name a few costs.
Most middle-income families are living week to week, as they have been for the past 9 years of stagnant wages growth. The least fortunate families on lower incomes have been struggling with the costs of living just to survive, which includes an ever-diminishing access to health care as Liberal Government under Mr Abbott and Mr Morrison have reduced payments the Medical Benefits Scheme, including the costs of seeing a GP. The one-off payment can really be construed as one week of relief at best for lower- and middle-income families, who undoubtedly are well behind in other costs of living, including utilities and rent. Whilst we deal with the issue of rent, if house prices increase, as they have been for several years now, the cost of rent will also increase. I did not see any rent relief in last night’s cynical “we will buy your vote” budget. BDO in its analysis of these payments opine it is only a temporary fix which may not have a long-lasting impact for vulnerable Australians. BDO also question any long-term affordability of schemes to assist first home buyers. And as for Mr Morrison’s comment this morning:
“Scott Morrison has told renters that the best way the government can support them is to help them buy a home, in what housing experts have described as a ‘let them eat cake’ moment.”
We all know from our history lessons what the people of France did to their monarchy when such an uncompassionate statement was made.
Then we move onto the fuel excise. There are two issues about the temporary fuel excise reduction which Mr Frydenberg announced last night. The first issue is the requirement for petroleum companies to pass that benefit onto you the consumer at the petrol pump; there is none apart from an “expectation” by the ACCC, and they acknowledge it could take many weeks as petrol companies use up their existing stock. The cost of fuel worldwide is on the way up, not down, so don’t expect to see any significant difference at the petrol bowser when you fuel up once existing stocks are exhausted. The second issue is a matter which I raised in an earlier article about inflation, namely the failure by the Morrison Government to embrace electric car technology and indeed manufacture the vehicles here as we have underground all the necessary minerals to make affordable electric cars. Consumers would not be subjected to the vicissitudes of the petroleum companies and the price per barrel of oil if the Federal Government had not so incompetently shunned the proposal of electrical vehicles being introduced into the marketplace during the 2019 Federal Election. Fossil fuels are an anachronism of a bygone age, and for the life of me I cannot understand why the Federal Government would not embrace electric car technology 3 years ago, other than pursuing an untrue political strategy to win an election. The costs of charging an electric car would be nominal, and it is good for the environment as we are converting over to renewable energy (I will have more to say about that issue on another occasion).
The budget failed to deliver any national plan for reviving Australian manufacturing; an essential economic step if we wish to break free from the escalating costs of purchasing secondary level manufactured goods from China and India. There was absolute silence on the floor of Parliament last night about this issue; Simon and Garfunkel could have played their famous song last night to reflect the ongoing disinterest the Liberal Party has regarding the logical economic step of us manufacturing from our primary resources the secondary manufactured goods which we in turn purchase at the tertiary level of the economy here, a chain of three levels of Australian owned business enterprises. The Liberal Party has pushed our national debt into the stratosphere of “trillion dollars” debt, with nothing to show for it, save for questions about so many billions of our dollars of our money allegedly sliding sideways into the hands of mining magnates and other billionaires.
The Morrison Government is blowing hard into their own pipes today about the purported savings of childcare per week, but those savings will be negated to a large degree by the skyrocketing inflation which will be incurred by day-care centres, just like any other business, and parents. The question has to be asked; why didn’t the Morrison Government previously provide adequate childcare relief before last night’s budget? It is evident the 2021 budget was financially insufficient to provide more accessible childcare relief, and it was not going to be implemented until 1 July 2022. Those 2021 budget provisions for childcare were only going to benefit a quarter of the population using childcare services. In relation to the 2022 budget, there was no provision evident from the proposed policy to address the question which any parent has (and up until the end of 2017 I had a child in day-care) about scaling up demand for day-care services, namely what is being done on the other side of the ledger regarding the risks of compromised quality, which is important to parents as it affects children’s health, wellbeing, and development. The Federal Government concedes the “benefits” of child-care are subject to many variables, so in other words, don’t expect to see too much back in your bank accounts.
Aged Care services are no better off than last year’s budget as the sector is still underfunded, and there are key workforce issues including incentives for nurses to work in regional areas and older workers to join the industry, as well as the sector still facing the challenges of the pace of compliance and regulatory change (NAB review 30/03/2022). On the broader health front, the Australian Medical Association argues the current health system is not fit for purpose, and I have previously addressed how Medicare is being pulled apart brick by brick. The President of the RACGP, Dr Karen Price, has expressed her disappointment vital components of the Primary Health Care 10 Year Plan remain unfunded. On behalf of the RACGP, Dr Price stated:
“… the Federal Government has failed to provide much-needed funding to support vulnerable patient groups, including those with chronic and complex disease, and deliver on what is needed to ensure a strong future for primary healthcare in Australia.”
Dr Price also stated the lack of funding regarding the 10 Year Plan will also negatively impact the community by there being continuing gaps in aged care, mental health, disability, and chronic and complex care. The National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Professor Trent Tworney has also criticised the 2022 Budget regarding the costs of medicines, as he says the Federal Government has:
“… failed to adequately address the increasing cost of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicines in the Federal Budget, a decision that has been criticised as a missed opportunity by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.”
A missed opportunity! (You don’t say, as a person who takes daily medication I groan in financial anxiety when I receive my monthly account). The Grattan Institute has stated today health fared poorly in last night’s budget, as the Federal Government failed to fix primary care and aged care.
Finally, the CEO of Professionals Australia, Jill McCabe, said the Federal Budget measures failed to address the full cost of living pressures faced by Australian families now and into the future, including the budget failing to reduce the costs of groceries, power, rent, education, health, and housing. Ms McCabe also said wage growth (if it materialises) will not keep up with inflation, so Australian families will be even worse off.
There are so many other failures delivered in the budget last night (such as proper flood funding for Queenslanders) but the list is too extensive for me to write about them now, in the interests of brevity. Mr Morrison in his train wreck interview at the National Press Club back on 1 February 2022 could not even say what the price of such basics as bread and milk were at that time. Mr Morrison simply does not understand or seemingly care what the average income earning Australian must try to pay for each week, let alone impoverished Australians.
Last night we saw an out of touch and desperate Federal Government trying to buy your votes just before an election – an election which the polls suggest the Morrison Government will be heavily defeated in – by delivering a terrible budget which has no long-term plans for this country’s future. The only plan regarding this budget is an attempt to re-elect Mr Morrison as Prime Minister, a man whom in the words of Senator Fierravanti-Wells is an “autocrat and bully who has no moral compass” (Pauline Hanson is also alleging today she too has experienced Mr Morrison’s bullying).
We deserve better than this, Australia.
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