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Tag Archives: Cost of living

With all that is wrong with Australia, all we hear about is boats

I truly detest how this country is treating asylum seekers and I detest the policies of both the Coalition and Labor – none of which remotely consider the onshore processing of refugees who arrive or attempt to arrive by boat.

I also detest how the asylum seeker issue is thrust front and centre by the government as the issue which will most likely decide who wins the next federal election. With nothing else to take to the election, naturally it’s all that the government wants us to be focused on.

And of course, the compliant Murdoch media is an active agent in promoting the discourse in our popular consciousness that we need to keep our borders safe from ‘boat people’.

I live in hope that one day (soon, I hope) that we witness an Australian government adopt both a heart and a humane policy on ‘boat people’ and I would like to see it embraced by most Australians. The latter, of course, would require an absolute turnaround to our popular consciousness.

End of story.

I don’t want to talk about ‘boat people’ any more. With all that is wrong with Australia, all we hear about is boats.

Instead of the government and the Murdoch media telling us what the important issues are, we should be turning it back onto them.

Take away the blather and the bravado about our ‘right to be tough’ towards asylum seekers and dig into the core of what really is important to us and this is what you’ll find:

As at June 2015 over 753,000 Australians were unemployed. In September 2013 – the month of the federal election – the number was just over 706,000. So since the election 47,000 more people are out of work. What is the government doing about the trend? Nothing. What is the media saying about it? Nothing.

Are there more people unemployed in Australia than the number of asylum seekers attempting to come here by boat? Yes.

Housing affordability has gone through the roof (excuse the pun) as have house prices themselves. The median house price in Sydney – our most populated city – is expected to hit $1,000,000 by the end of the year while Australia wide it sits at $660,000. Young people are now struggling more than ever to enter the housing market as the “Australian dream” of home ownership is under threat. But not according to our Treasurer Joe Hockey who insists that houses in Sydney are not unaffordable while the Prime Minister says he wants house prices to rise. That’s right. Rise. With young people struggling to buy a house at today’s prices our Prime Minister wants them to pay even more, despite the fact that housing affordability already represents a long-term structural problem that has been neglected for decades. So, what then can I assume our government is doing about housing affordability? Well based on the attitude of our Treasurer and Prime Minister, nothing. It’s not a problem apparently.

I wonder, are there more people in Australia struggling to or unable to buy a house than the number of asylum seekers attempting to come here by boat? Yes.

Over two and a half million Australians, including over 600,000 children live below the poverty line. That number represents almost 14% of our population. Welfare recipients are most at risk of living in poverty, yet these are the people most likely to be adversely affected by this government’s budgetary measures. So is the government doing anything to reduce the level of poverty in Australia? No.

Are there more people living below the poverty line in Australia than the number of asylum seekers attempting to come here by boat? Yes.

On any given night there are 105,000 homeless Australians with 42 per cent of these being under 25. We do not hear the media talk about this as a damning blight of our society and neither do we hear the government offering any solution to it. But can we expect them to when Tony Abbott says that homelessness is a ‘choice‘?

And by the way, are there more homeless people in Australia than the number of asylum seekers attempting to come here by boat? Yes.

Around one in five women in Australia have experienced some form of domestic violence. These are “epidemic proportions” to the point that domestic violence has now become a national emergency. As has the number of women killed by a violent partner: with at least one women murdered every week. What is the government doing about it? Not much by the look of it.

Are there more people in Australia experiencing domestic violence than the number of asylum seekers attempting to come here by boat? Yes.

Australia is now the most expensive country to live in and Australians are “struggling to cope as the cost of living pressures bite“. An estimated one in three Australians cannot meet their cost of living expenses on their current incomes. What is the government doing about it? Nothing. What is the media saying about it? Nothing.

Are there more people in Australia struggling with the cost of living than the number of asylum seekers attempting to come here by boat? Yes.

Our economy is “grinding into stagnation” and rather than the three or so per cent growth each year we’ve come to expect, we might have to get used to 2 per cent GDP growth. And as a result, lower living standards can be expected while “everything here is going to be much tougher than before and compared to the rest of the world”. So what is the government doing about it (apart from blaming Labor)? Nothing. “The government neither has no idea – let along any proposal, plan or program – for how to boost Australian growth back up to three or four per cent per year“. They’re not even talking about it. Meanwhile, some of our largest and most potentially-innovative sectors are held back by the Abbott Government’s bureaucracy and regulation.

And will more Australians be affected by a stagnant economy and lower living standards than the number of asylum seekers attempting to come here by boat? Yes.

Oh how I could go on. I only wish the media would too. I wish the media would tell us not only the truth about the Abbott Government but question their appalling attitude towards climate change, the environment, job security, racism, Indigenous Australians, human rights . . . take a pick!

And how about our spiraling debt?

And how about Tony Abbott’s record of lies and broken promises?

Yet, with all that is wrong with Australia, all we hear about is boats.


Living within our means

Image by abc.net.au

Joe Hockey says we should be living within our means. But what exactly does he mean? (Image from abc.net.au)

Last night I watched a giggling Leigh Sales interview Joe Hockey who vacillated between the laughing matesy wink wink buddy of the MSM and the sombre Treasurer telling us we must “live within our means”.

So what exactly does “living within our means” mean?

It can’t mean always spending less than you earn because otherwise most individuals would not be able to buy a house or a car or go on overseas trips. Businesses would not be able to start up and grow. Governments would not be able to provide infrastructure. Developers wouldn’t exist and banks would go broke.

So I guess it means being able to service your debt.

In the last budget, net debt in 2013-14 was estimated at $178.104 billion, around 11.1 per cent of Gross National Product, and net interest payments for the year of $7.835 billion. By comparison, the combined net debt for the world’s seven biggest economies is 92.6 per cent of their combined GDP.

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Australia was worth 1520.60 billion US dollars in 2012. Even allowing for the changes in exchange rate and the deteriorating position since the budget, our interest payments are about 0.5% of our GDP. If you were earning $100,000 a year I don’t think you would find paying less than $10 a week too onerous.

But are we saddling future generations with a debt they will never be able to repay?

Well for starters, the Australian government has NEVER had zero gross debt. We have very occasionally reached zero net debt, but considering the global financial crisis, and the very low interest rates on offer at the moment, going into such comparatively low levels of debt to stimulate the economy and to provide jobs, services and infrastructure seems a wise investment.

For many of us, it is a goal to be mortgage/debt free by the time we retire, though that is unachievable for a lot of people. This is not the case for governments. They will never retire. They will always have an income stream. There will be boom times when they can save and reduce debt, and tough times when they must borrow to spend. Suggesting that we can ever maintain zero debt is just not realistic nor is it necessary.

There are some structural issues in the budget that need addressing to prepare for our changing demographic but the cost-cutting measures so far announced or hinted at by the Coalition do little to address these problems into the future. Their miserly savings of a few million here and there have come at the cost of many very worthwhile ventures.

But the really galling part in this tightening of our belts is what the government is choosing to spend money on.

There have been many stories about politicians rorting their entitlements, hiring private jets, and generally wasting a lot of taxpayers money. Their travelling and office expenses are huge. We are providing Tony Abbott with several places of residence and also apparently forking out for new bigger jets and a fleet of security cars, costing us hundreds of millions.

We are having yet another enquiry into the Home Insulation Scheme. Whilst it was a tragedy that 4 young men lost their lives, there have already been eight investigations which have detailed how and why it happened with recommendations on how to avoid similar problems in the future. Royal Commissions aren’t cheap and it looks like we will also have one looking into unions even though there is already the framework to investigate corruption and prosecute individuals by Fairwork Australia.

Whilst cutting $13.4 million from Indigenous legal services, they provided $2.2 million legal aid for farmers to fight native title claims.

The Federal Government withdrew support for a $16 million grant to South Sydney Rabbitohs for a high performance centre whilst retaining a $10 million funding promise for Brookvale Oval – located in the heart of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Warringah electorate.

I shudder to think what Operation Sovereign Borders is costing us. With two frigates at $207,000 a day each and seven Armidale Class Patrol boats at $40,000 a day each, along with numerous Customs vessels patrolling the seas between Christmas Island and Indonesia, the bill must be huge. It has also left us without the promised patrol of Japanese whaling. Combine that with the $3 billion we spent last year locking asylum seekers up in offshore detention centres, and the extra $1.2 billion allocated by the Coalition in MYEFO, this is a very costly exercise in inhumanity.

Saving a few million dollars by disbanding all climate change advisory bodies and sacking scientists at the CSIRO will not make a dent in the $2.55 billion over the next four years, followed by $1.2 billion a year until 2020, budgeted to pay to polluters, and the $811 million we are spending on a Green Army.

It is also widely agreed that Direct Action as planned, with an unrealistic $8/tonne abatement price, will go nowhere near meeting our emission reduction and renewable energy targets. Under an emission trading scheme we would have the flexibility to source abatement overseas if the price is right so we would meet the target through national and/or international reductions. Direct Action has no such plan if targets aren’t met and it also has no plan for beyond 2020.

In the 7:30 report, Joe Hockey, when asked about assistance for struggling company SPC Ardmona, replied that the

“parent company of SPC Ardmona, Coca-Cola Amatil, which is an Australian company, in the first six months of this year had a profit of over $215 million …. I think you can understand why we are being very cautious, very careful about handing out taxpayers’ money to companies that are profitable.”

During the election campaign, Abbott flew to Tasmania and blithely handed a gift of $16 million to the Cadbury chocolate factory. Cadbury is owned by a multinational firm that had reported a 64 per cent rise in its profit to $74.9 million last year. It’s probably just a coincidence that they are major sponsors of Tony’s pollie pedal ride.

Speaking of pollie pedal sponsors, they include three pharmaceutical companies – alphapharm, Roche and Pfizer – as well as the world’s largest biotechnology company AMGEN. Bob Gosford wrote a very informative article in the Northern Myth about AMGEN. Tony’s close association with pharmaceutical firms and his haste to sign free trade agreements doesn’t auger well for our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme which will no doubt be immediately targeted for lawsuits for restricting profitability.

Joe Hockey also said last night, when asked about a possible $6 co-payment for bulk-billing doctors,

“Well, no, we’re not ruling things in or out. We are dealing with all of the suggestions that have been put forward on a methodical basis. I want to emphasise – I want to emphasise: this not a choice for government. It has to be done. We need to live within our means. We can’t keep hitting taxpayers, we can’t keep hitting families, we can’t keep hitting employers, employees with new taxes to pay for the largesse that Labor left. We can’t do that. We’ve got to live within our means.”

But apparently they can hit us all to fund their rolled gold Paid Parental Leave Scheme which is estimated to cost $5.5 billion a year and is hugely skewed to favour the wealthy.

Mr Hockey has also cost us several billion by abolishing certain taxes:

  • $1.8 billion fringe benefits tax crackdown on cars
  • $313 million in tax on super pension earnings above $100,000 for 16,000 wealthy people
  • $266 million by removing the $2000 cap on tax deductions for work-related self-education expenses.
  • Another three taxes, including one aimed at stopping multinationals shifting profits overseas, will be watered down, at a cost of $700 million.

Through direct subsidies and tax concessions, the mining industry receives over $4.5 billion a year from the government. The average rate of corporate tax is about 21 per cent, the mining industry only pays 14 per cent.

This year the government will provide $7 billion for the private health insurance industry. $5.6 billion will be in a direct subsidy to the industry. There will be another $1.4 billion in income tax foregone by the Commonwealth Government.

Excluding deposits, Australian taxpayers are handing over benefits worth $2.1bn to $7.2bn a year — up to $763 a taxpayer — to the big four banks, which is conservative because the Financial Claims Scheme insures deposits up to only $250,000.

Mind you, the banks don’t even pay for the explicit insurance, which the Reserve Bank governor said recently was probably worth “a few basis points” of insured deposits, or somewhere around $250 million a year.

There are many more examples showing the priorities this government has for its spending. MYEFO projects that we will not reach a surplus until 2023-24. From everything I can see, it is only the poor who are being asked to tighten their belts so the rich can grow richer in the misguided hope that this increased wealth will somehow trickle down. It seems to me that if you instead increased the wealth of our poorest people then that would create a tsunami of demand that would indeed “lift the tide” for all.