When you get all of your advice from the business sector of the community, it is hardly surprising that profit becomes your foremost goal and privatisation and deregulation the means to achieve it. But who amongst these advisers considers the greater good? Who will offer protection from corporate greed and safety to our most vulnerable? Who is courageous enough to look at the long term consequences of decisions? Who will decide what is fair?
Australia had the highest per capita CO2 emissions in 2012 at 18.8 tonnes. In the US, emissions per capita were 16.4 tonnes, and just behind came oil-rich Saudi Arabia with per capita emissions of 16.2 tonnes. The EU and China – both major emitters in absolute terms – had much smaller per capita emissions, at 7.4 and 7.1 tonnes respectively.
While Australia’s domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions represent some 1.5% of the global total, its global carbon footprint – the total amount of carbon it pushes out into the global economy – is much bigger.
Australia is the world’s largest coal exporter. By adding emissions from exported coal to our domestic emissions, Australia’s carbon footprint trebles. Its coal exports alone currently contribute at least another 3.3% of global emissions.
In aggregate, therefore, Australia is at present the source of at least 4.8% of total global emissions. That’s without considering natural gas exports.
The proposed “mega coal mines” in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, producing for export, will be responsible for an estimated 705 million tonnes of CO2 per year and would turn that region alone into the world’s seventh largest contributor of emissions.
Countries such as Australia, Canada, the Russian Federation, and Saudi Arabia fail to accept any responsibility for the emissions caused by the fossil fuels they export. They also ignore the carbon footprint of manufactured goods they import from other countries like China. To say our contribution is miniscule is a deliberately contrived falsehood.
Is it fair for us to try to gain a competitive advantage in the market by ignoring action on climate change and leaving it to others?
The Abbott government is preparing Australians for an overhaul of the welfare system, with Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews indicating too many depend on the government for their incomes. Mr Andrews said the review shows that more than five million Australians, or about one in five, now receive income support payments.
In his 2009 book, Battlelines, Mr Abbott wrote that one of the Howard government’s most significant achievements was “slowing the rise in the number of people claiming the disability pension”. Mr Andrews suggests that the difference in indexation between Newstart and pensions leads to a “perverse incentive for people to get onto the DSP”.
Parenting payments and the disability support pension were two areas of welfare that “would be sensible to review again”, Mr Andrews told the ABC.
Cassandra Goldie, chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Service, whilst admitting a very small proportion of people did not do the right thing, rejected the idea that the disability support pension was an easy “rort” to sign up to. She said the previous Labor government had made it even more difficult for people to get disability pensions, and as a result more people were going on the Newstart unemployment payment of $36 a day.
“The disability support pension is now extremely hard to get on to,” she said. “It’s confined to people who are subject to rigorous testing.”
Mr Andrews flagged the idea of preventing welfare recipients from refusing to take a job on the grounds that it was more than 90 minutes travel from their home and said it was his “inclination” to consider splitting the Newstart unemployment benefit into different “tiers”, which could apply to the payment rate or the conditions attached to receiving it.
Is it fair to be targeting the poorest sector of our community whilst announcing an amnesty for wealthy tax evaders who hide their income offshore? Is it fair to reduce welfare to our most disadvantaged whilst providing billions of dollars of corporate welfare to mining companies, banks and private health insurers?
Is it fair to maintain generous tax breaks for around 16,000 wealthier Australians while cutting tax concessions for 3.6 million workers on lower incomes and scrapping the planned increase in the superannuation guarantee? The superannuation policy change announced by the Coalition costs the budget even more money – mostly via the huge concessions granted to higher income earners – while doing little to relieve the strain on the aged pension, since those most likely to require the pension in old age will receive an even smaller share of the superannuation concessions.
The continuation of the existing superannuation rules by Hockey would significantly exacerbate inequities in the superannuation system, since under the flat (15 per cent) tax an even greater share of tax concessions – a direct hit on the budget – will flow to those on higher incomes, whilst lower income earners will receive next to no tax benefit.
Is it fair to ask us to tighten our belts whilst paying for a Paid Parental leave Scheme which will see wealthy women paid almost five times as much ($2885 a week) as low income earners to stay at home for 6 months with their babies?
Is it fair to ask us to pay polluters bribes rather than them paying for the destruction they cause?
Is it fair to lock up asylum seekers and to leave the burden to other countries?
Fair suck of the sav, Tony. It’s time you got, as you are wont to say, fair dinkum!