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Tag Archives: paid parental leave

Absolute crap

One thing that has become increasingly apparent about Tony Abbott is that he gears his words to his audience.  If that meant explaining policies at a level that the audience could comprehend, that could be a good thing, but in the case of our Prime Minister, it means saying what you think they want to hear even if it is inconsistent with, or even diametrically opposed to what you have told a different audience.

When Tony visited a meeting of 130 farmers and townspeople in Beaufort in September 2009, he called for a show of hands on whether the Coalition should support the ETS. Only a handful voted yes.

Abbott, until that point Turnbull’s main defender on the ETS, quickly donned his sceptic’s hat and played to the room discussing how there had been many changes of climate over the millennia not caused by man, leading to that infamous quote

“The argument is absolute crap. However, the politics of this are tough for us. Eighty per cent of people believe climate change is a real and present danger.”

His comments were warmly received in this rural heartland and that was when Tony realised that he may have a shot at the leadership if he became a climate change denier.

After he staged his leadership takeover, Abbott tried to cover-up his backflip describing his use of “crap” as “a bit of hyperbole” and not his “considered position” and said it was made “in the context of a very heated discussion where I was attempting to argue people around to what I thought was then our position”.

Absolute crap say the people who were at the meeting.

Event organiser Jim Cox said Abbott’s comment was “very well received” and he quickly realised “he was on a bit of a winner”.  Vice-president of the Beaufort branch of the Liberal Party Joe McCracken said Abbott looked relieved by the applause.

Buoyed by his success, Tony used the same approach when he attended a luncheon event on International Women’s Day in 2010.

What would women want to hear?  I know…we are going to give you universal paid parental leave on replacement wages plus superannuation for six months and we are going to scrap Labor’s $150,000- a-year income limit on the $5185 Baby Bonus.

Instead of being grateful, women, who are in the main smarter than Tony Abbott, realised this fell into the ‘too good to be true’ category.  As subsequent actions have shown, Tony’s feigned concern for women and families was absolute crap as was his promise not to introduce any new taxes. (Who could forget that humiliating interview with Kerry O’Brien?)

Not only have we lost the Baby Bonus, and lost the right to claim paid parental leave from both our employer and the government, eligibility for Family Benefit payments has been tightened up and increases frozen.  The appropriateness of these measures is debatable but Abbott’s backflip is not.

Going into the last election Tony Abbott promised a ‘unity ticket’ on education.  The Liberal Party education policy also clearly stated “We will ensure the continuation of the current arrangements of university funding.”

Absolute crap.

When Tony Abbott addressed the IPA at their 70th anniversary dinner, he spoke of freedom.

Freedom can only exist within a framework of law so that every person’s freedom is consistent with the same freedom for everyone else.  At least in the English speaking tradition, liberalism and conservatism, love of freedom and respect for due process, have been easy allies.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is the foundation of our justice. “Love your neighbour as you love yourself” is the foundation of our mercy.

..a democratic parliament, an incorruptible judiciary and a free press, rather than mere law itself, are the best guarantors of human rights.

You campaigned against the legislative prohibition against giving offence and I’m pleased to say that the author of those draft laws is now leaving the parliament. Well done IPA! And, of course, you campaigned against the public interest media advocate, an attack dog masquerading as a watchdog, designed to intimidate this government’s media critics and that legislation was humiliatingly withdrawn.”

Abbott sucked up to the IPA telling them what they wanted to hear but where is the due process for citizens returning from the Middle East?  Where is the justice and mercy for asylum seekers?  Where is the concern for human rights?  Where is the freedom to criticise this government?  And who is Abbott to speak of humiliating withdrawals?

That speech had more crap in it than Chinese berries.

Tony speaks of his commitment to tackling the scourge of domestic violence and to closing the gap for Indigenous Australians while slashing funding for frontline services.  We have seemingly endless funds for defence, national security and border protection.  We can even find $40 million to give Cambodia to take four refugees.  But we cannot fund refuges, legal services and advocacy groups.

The lip service paid to the protection of our vulnerable has been proven absolute crap by the actions of Abbott’s mob.

And when it comes to the economy, everything the Abbott government says is crap.  Despite significantly increasing the debt and deficit and having to downgrade projections with every fiscal statement, they try to convince us that they have cut billions from the debt they inherited.  It makes no sense whatsoever to compare trajectories in ten years’ time and claim credit for things that haven’t happened and aren’t likely to.

After campaigning widely on the supposed “debt and deficit disaster” and trash talking our economy, Joe Hockey warns us now of the irresponsibility of such talk because of its negative affect on confidence.  Whilst reining in government spending, he encourages us all to get out there and spend up big to stimulate the economy.  Joe, you are full of it.

On many occasions before the election, the Coalition promised to build our new submarines in South Australia.  It even appears in their defence policy released on September 2, 2013.

“We will also ensure that work on the replacement of the current submarine fleet will centre around the South Australian shipyards.”

When Tony’s leadership was threatened in February, he promised his South Australian colleagues that would be the case – at least that’s what they thought he promised.  Even they must now realise that was absolute crap.

Before the election we were promised “no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS” and no adverse changes to superannuation.

Absolute crap.

In his victory speech on September 7 2013 Tony Abbott made the following promise:

“In a week or so the governor-general will swear in a new government. A government that says what it means, and means what it says. A government of no surprises and no excuses. A government that understands the limits of power as well as its potential. And a government that accepts that it will be judged more by its deeds than by its mere words.”

My judgement?

Tony Abbott will say whatever he thinks people want to hear because, far from being a leader, he is a dishonest inadequate man whose only motivation is to keep his job.  This makes him susceptible to manipulation.  We are in the position where focus groups, vested interests, lobbyists and party donors are dictating policy because our PM is a weak man with no vision whose words mean nothing.

Absolute crap, indeed.

Tony Abbott – a man of principle and conviction?

Tony Abbott’s timeline on paid parental leave

2002

In 2002, Tony Abbott’s hostility to paid parental leave reached a crescendo, when he declared to the press: “Compulsory paid maternity leave? Over this Government’s dead body, frankly.”

2008

Writing for The Australian in October 2008, he claimed that paid parental leave – like abortion – was part of a “radical women’s agenda” championed by extreme feminists in the Labor movement. He spoke out about his opposition to the scheme based on the ways it reduced stay at home mothers to second class citizens, lambasting then Prime Minister Rudd’s commitment to women workers as an example of “Political Correctness”; extreme lip-service to the feminists in Labor ranks.

“Providing more government benefits to employed mothers than to stay-at-home ones is not only unfair but it’s going to strike many people as an attack on the traditional family. Conservative brownie points for making it easier for employed women to stay at home with their newborns won’t outweigh the scheme’s ideological bias towards the two-income family.”

2009

Productivity Commission Report: “Payment at a flat rate would mean that the labour supply effects would be greatest for lower income, less skilled women — precisely those who are most responsive to wage subsidies and who are least likely to have privately negotiated paid parental leave. Full replacement wages for highly educated, well paid women would be very costly for taxpayers and, given their high level of attachment to the labour force and a high level of private provision of paid parental leave, would have few incremental labour supply benefits.”

2010

Mr Abbott first announced his paid parental leave in 2010 after he emerged from a luncheon event on International Women’s Day. The scheme would pay new mothers their regular wage for six months, up to a maximum of $75,000, and is to be funded by a 1.5 per cent levy on more than 3000 big companies.

May 7 2013

TONY Abbott’s expensive paid parental leave scheme is “all about” encouraging women of “calibre” to have children, the Opposition Leader said today.

“We do not educate women to higher degree level to deny them a career,” he said.

“If we want women of that calibre to have families, and we should, well we have to give them a fair dinkum chance to do so. That is what this scheme of paid parental leave is all about.”

July 23 2013

LABOR is on its own believing a parental leave plan should be paid at “welfare” rates rather than a worker’s real wage, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says.

May 2014

The Abbott government cut $450 million from the Outside School Hours Care program.

They tightened the criteria for providers who care for children in their own homes from July 2015 (and for new providers from 2014).  The new rules mean family day care providers must be the only service in their local area and the Government expects to save $157 million over three years as a result of this change.

The Government cancelled funding to all Indigenous Children and Family Centres, totalling $78 million per year.

October 9 2014

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is standing firm on his prized paid parental leave scheme, saying it is still his “firm intention” it will start next July amid renewed calls from government MPs that it should be dumped to pay for the mission in Iraq.

The Prime Minister said on Thursday he has promised the policy at two elections and took a swipe at MPs who had raised concerns about the policy only after the Coalition’s election to government.  Mr Abbott insisted he did not want to break an election promise.

February 2 2015

In a bid to convince colleagues he is listening, Mr Abbott will use a much-anticipated speech to confirm he has dumped his paid parental leave (PPL) scheme in favour of a “families package” and “a bigger, better PPL scheme is off the table”.

April 28 2015

On Tuesday, Social Services Minister Scott Morrison announced almost $250 million for a two-year nanny trial, providing funding to about 10,000 children.  Nannies will not need to hold a minimum early childhood qualification.

May 11 2015

Almost 80,000 new mothers will lose some or all of their government parental leave payments in a move slammed by a key consultant for the paid parental leave scheme as “the mother of all insults”.

The move represents a stunning turnaround from the government that less than six months ago was still promising to provide six months of paid parental leave for families, under Mr Abbott’s now-dumped “signature” policy.

It will see almost half of new mothers lose access to the full $11,500 available under the federal government’s existing scheme from July 2016.

May 11 2015

National party senators are joining the Labor party and the Greens in questioning the cuts to single income families’ benefits that the Abbott government says are essential to pay for the new childcare package that forms the centrepiece of its budget.

But Coalition backbencher, Queensland Liberal National party senator Matthew Canavan agrees the payments should not be linked.

“We are deeply concerned about the divide between support for working families and support for families where one parent stays at home … the system we are proposing massively penalises families where a parent stays home to look after children and we think it does not properly value the benefits of unpaid work,” he said.

Talk about stubborn!

stubborn-e1406190207500Yesterday I heard Joe Hockey interviewed.  When asked about Tony’s pet Paid Parental Leave Scheme he had the unmitigated gall to say that Labor hates paid parental leave.  Does he forget that it was Labor that brought in our first PPL on January 1 2011?  Does he forget Abbott’s history on this issue?

In 2002, Tony Abbott’s hostility to paid parental leave reached a crescendo, when he declared to the press: “Compulsory paid maternity leave?  Over this Government’s dead body, frankly.”

Writing for The Australian in October 2008, he claimed that paid parental leave – like abortion – was part of a “radical women’s agenda” championed by extreme feminists in the Labor movement. He spoke out about his opposition to the scheme based on the ways it reduced stay at home mothers to second class citizens, lambasting then Prime Minister Rudd’s commitment to women workers as an example of “Political Correctness”; extreme lip-service to the feminists in Labor ranks.

In 2009 a Productivity Commission Report stated :

“Payment at a flat rate would mean that the labour supply effects would be greatest for lower income, less skilled women — precisely those who are most responsive to wage subsidies and who are least likely to have privately negotiated paid parental leave. Full replacement wages for highly educated, well paid women would be very costly for taxpayers and, given their high level of attachment to the labour force and a high level of private provision of paid parental leave, would have few incremental labour supply benefits.”

Despite this advice, in 2010 “Mr Abbott first announced his paid parental leave after he emerged from a luncheon event on International Women’s Day. The scheme would pay new mothers their regular wage for six months, up to a maximum of $75,000, and is to be funded by a 1.5 per cent levy on more than 3000 big companies.”

On May 6 2013, Malcolm Turnbull refused to comment when asked if he thought there should be a review into the scheme.

“I’ve said again I am not going to comment on whether it should be reviewed or not. I don’t believe there is any need to review it. I think it has been very carefully costed by Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb so it is certainly in the policy budget envelope but any further deliberations on that or any other policy is obviously something we do in the four walls of shadow cabinet,” Mr Turnbull said.

“This is a key policy of Tony Abbott’s and it is something that we have as part of our policy and I don’t see any probability or likelihood that of that policy being shelved. Tony is very committed to it.”

The next day we hear a little more about Tony’s rationale of wanting women of calibre to breed.

TONY Abbott’s expensive paid parental leave scheme is “all about” encouraging women of “calibre” to have children, the Opposition Leader said today.

“We do not educate women to higher degree level to deny them a career,” he said.

“If we want women of that calibre to have families, and we should, well we have to give them a fair dinkum chance to do so. That is what this scheme of paid parental leave is all about.”

On that same day

Internal dissent about the policy went public this morning, with federal Liberal backbencher Alex Hawke calling it an “albatross” that must be “scrapped”.

Writing for the Institute of Public Affairs backbencher Alex Hawke blasted it as an “unjustifiable impost on business” and said the policy should be reviewed.

“An expansion of the PPL scheme is ill-suited to an economically Liberal agenda,” Mr Hawke wrote.

“Most importantly for Australians, the policy does not pass the fair-go test.”

“Now would be a very good time to revisit this policy with a view to scrapping it before the next election, so we can go to the election without this albatross around the neck of the party,” he said.

In June 2013, when asked to guarantee Tony Abbott’s “signature policy”, Mr Hockey responded: “You will see our initiative in that regard prior to the election…I’m not going to get into speculating about where we’re at.”

The following month, big business and the IPA added their criticism of the scheme.

LABOR is on its own believing a parental leave plan should be paid at “welfare” rates rather than a worker’s real wage, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says.

But that’s not quite true.   Big business joined critics of Mr Abbott’s signature paid parental leave scheme as Coalition MPs prepare to pressure their leader to modify it.

Mr Abbott’s predicament has been summed up by a shadow minister: “There’s only one vote for it in the party room.”

It is one of the most generous proposals in the world but the cost, the need for a tax increase, and the lack of consultation has turned some Liberal MPs against it.

Business is also fighting the plan with the head of the Australian Industry Group, Innes Willox Monday night saying: “There are no positives, no upsides in this policy that we can see for business.

“It’s inequitable,” Mr Innes told ABC TV.

“Only the top 3000 or so companies would be paying and they’d be subsidising for everyone else. That doesn’t make sense on that level.

‘”The current system is operating well. It has very broad business and community support. We don’t see any reason to change.”

John Roskam of the economically dry Institute for Public Affairs said “There’s widespread concern that the Coalition is supporting a tax increase. And at this time, the Coalition should be talking about cutting taxes and cutting spending, not increasing taxes.”

More recently we have had the commission of audit and the Productivity Commission (again) suggesting the money would be better spent on childcare.

May 1 2014

The commission (of audit) also wants Mr Abbott’s generous paid parental leave scheme wound back and the money directed into a streamlined childcare support mechanism. Paid parental leave wage replacement should be capped to average weekly earnings – $57,460 a year, much less than the current proposal of $100,000. The savings should be used to offset the cost of expanded childcare assistance.

July 22 2014

The Coalition has dismissed a Productivity Commission suggestion that funds be redirected away from Tony Abbott’s paid parental scheme and into childcare services, arguing that the two are “separate things”.

On a government website there is an article titled Comparing the Paid Parental Leave Schemes.  It states

The designs of both the current and Coalition/Greens schemes contain elements that make them as much like an Australian Government welfare payment as they are workplace entitlements. For example, rather than being funded and run privately by employers or funded (as occurs in most OECD countries) through a social insurance scheme, they are:

•fully or substantially funded from taxation revenue and

•fully or substantially administered by the Department of Human Services.

Critics of both the Coalition and Greens schemes have tended to argue that PPL should better reflect the existing framework of Australia’s welfare payment system, based around targeting flat rates of payment at those most in need. As the Henry Tax Review noted, ‘the primary purpose of government assistance payments to individuals is to provide them with a minimum adequate standard of living’. A further value underlying the Australian system is that there should be incentives for private provision, with the benefit system seen more as a safety net.

The government argues that their scheme aims at gender equity and workforce participation.  This is hard to sell when you look at the guys and doll that form their cabinet and the reports from the PC and commission of audit suggesting affordable, flexible, quality childcare is far more important.

Despite a so-called budget emergency and criticism from every direction, regardless of advice from every expert review, unheeding of internal dissent, Tony forges ahead with his “I like women and women like me” campaign.  Does Tony really believe that he knows better than all experts on every matter?  It’s all just a political game for him and he increasingly shows he has no idea how to prioritise.

Abbott’s signature policy may be something to aspire to in the future but he is signing the cheque with money slashed from those most in need.   This mantra of “we took it to the election” won’t wash in light of all your other broken promises from your infamous “no cuts” speech.  Give it up Tony!

Failed plans should not be interpreted as a failed vision. Visions don’t change, they are only refined. Plans rarely stay the same, and are scrapped or adjusted as needed. Be stubborn about the vision, but flexible with your plan.

-John C. Maxwell

 

A ‘budget emergency’: it’s all about choices

Image by smh.com.au

Image by smh.com.au

The excuse for the draconian cuts made by Abbott and Hockey is that there is a budget emergency and a debt crisis.  I in no way concur with this appraisal of our economy or our future outlook but, that aside, as those of us who are not independently wealthy know, if you have limited funds then prioritising expenditure is most important.  The following article is to give you some perspective on how our money could be better spent.

In a display of largesse, Tony Abbott chose to gift $16 million to the profitable Cadburys factory, $10 million to his beloved Manly Sea Eagles, and $5 million to Rupert Murdoch’s Brisbane Broncos.  This money could have paid for:

  • The Climate Change Authority which was allocated $6.2 million in the 2012-13 financial year
  • The National Preventative Health Agency which will be abolished, saving $6.4 million over five years.
  • The Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia which has an annual budget of $1.6 million from the federal Health Department.
  • The Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing which is to be scrapped – at a saving of just over $1 million a year.
  • The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) despite allocating $140,000 just two weeks ago in its 2014-15 Budget.
  • The Government will achieve savings of $6.4 million over four years by ending the Get Reading! Programme
  • The Government will achieve savings of $4.4 million in 2014-15 by ceasing funding for Building Australia’s Future Workforce — Connection Interviews and Job Seeker Workshops
  • The Government will achieve savings of $3.9 million over two years from 1 July 2014 by ceasing funding for the Experience+ Career Advice initiative

Joe Hockey’s $8.8 billion gift to the Reserve Bank of Australia could have funded:

  • Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) co-payments and safety net thresholds which will increase by $5 (from $37.70 to $42.70) and for concessional patients by 80 cents (to $6.90) in 2015. PBS safety net thresholds will the increase by 10 per cent annually. The saving is $1.3 billion.
  • The threshold on Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) will drop by 10%, to $50,638 in 2016, at a repayment rate of 2%, saving $3.2 billion over 4 years.
  • Family Tax Benefit Part B (FTB-B), which will be cut for families when their youngest child turns six.  Currently about 60 per cent of families with children under the age of 16 receive the payment, and the changes will save the Government $1.9 billion over five years.
  • All Family Tax Benefit payments will be frozen and remain at current rates for two years, saving the Government $2.6 billion over four years.

Kevin Andrews $245 million school chaplaincy program and $20 million in marriage counselling vouchers could have been spent on:

  • Indigenous legal aid which will have $13.4 million stripped from its budget over the next three years
  • Community Legal Centres  –  additional $30 million set to be stripped from community legal centres, legal aid commissions, and family violence prevention services.
  • The Commonwealth Human Rights Education Programme saving $1.8 million over four years.
  • the HECS HELP benefit, which was intended to provide an incentive for graduates of particular courses to take up related occupations or work in specified locations will end from 2015-16. This measure will achieve savings of $87.1 million over three years.
  • Australian Research Council funding will be cut by 3.25%, saving $74.9 million over three years.
  • Funding to the Australia Institute for Teaching and School Leadership will be reduced, saving $19.9 million over five years.
  • The Better Schools Centre for Quality Teaching and Learning will end, saving $21 million over 5 years.
  • $14.7 million from Child Care Early Learning Projects
  • Live Animal Exports — Business Assistance Supply Chain and Official Development Assistance (Improved Animal Welfare Programme) saving of $2.3 million

Tony Abbott’s Paid Parental Leave Scheme, costing $22.2 billion could pay for:

  • The GP co-payment, to apply from July next year, will raise $3.5bn over four years.
  • The changes to Newstart which will save the Government $1.2 billion over the four-year forward estimates period.
  • Australian foreign aid spending is being cut by $7.6 billion over the next five years
  • $1.8 billion over four years by tearing up the 2011 health reform agreement and 2007 public hospital funding arrangements, which saw any increased expenditure split 50/50 between state and federal governments. Instead it will move to a CPI and population growth model for any additional funds.
  • The government also outlined intentions to index pensions and equivalent payments by the Consumer Price Index, estimated to save $449 million over five years.
  • Apprentices will lose grants offered under the $914 million program Tools for your Trade
  • The Seniors Supplement will be abolished from July 1 this year, for a saving of $1.1 billion.
  • The Dependent Spouse Tax Offset, which until now was available to people with dependent spouses of age 60 or older, will be discontinued, a decision which will save the Government $320 million.
  • The Mature Age Worker Tax Offset will also be abolished, saving $750 million
  • The Government has also abolished the Pensioner Education Supplement, for a saving of $281 million,
  • They will not proceed with the planned pilot of Supporting Senior Australians: Housing Help For Seniors, a $173 million program that was to encourage older Australians to downsize to smaller dwellings.
  • The Government will save $1.7 billion over six years – by almost halving its expenditure on the Commonwealth Home Support Program.
  • The Government will save $89.6 million over four years by reducing the Medicare Benefits Schedule rebate for all optometry services from 85 per cent to 80 per cent commencing from 1 January 2015. This measure will also remove the charging cap that currently applies to optometrists accessing the Medicare Benefits Schedule, enabling them, in the future, to set their own fees in a similar manner to other health providers.
  • The government has estimated it will save $12.7m by ordering medical specialists to review veterans who are receiving military compensation payments for economic loss because of an inability, or reduced ability, to work because of injury or illness.
  • The government has deferred the establishment of 13 Partners in Recovery organisations which help people with severe mental illness by coordinating clinical, housing, education, employment, income and disability services to save $53.8m.
  • The Government will achieve savings of $10.0 million over five years from the Office of Water Science research programme, with the programme terminating on 30 June 2016 and a further $20.9 million over four years by closing the National Water Commission in December 2014.
  • $390 million saved by deferring the National Partnership Agreement for adult public dental services until July 2015.
  • $367.9 million saved by axing the National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health
  • $2.9 million by axing the National Tobacco Campaign. Dept of Health to develop online and social media campaign.
  • The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples disbanding will save $15 million over the next three years
  • Funding for Indigenous languages has been cut by almost 10-million dollars over four years.
  • The Government will achieve savings of $196.8 million over nine years by terminating the Australia Network contract with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  • The Government will achieve savings of $201.0 million over three years from 2015-16 by ceasing reward funding to States and Territories under the National Partnership Agreement on Improving Public Hospital Services.
  • $115.4 million is saved by abolishing GP Education and Training Limited, shifting its functions into Health, and ceasing the Pre-vocational GP Placements Scheme.
  • The Government will achieve savings of $38.4 million over five years by ceasing the Displaced Persons Programme from 2013-14.
  • The Government will achieve net savings of $120.0 million over six years from 2015 by ceasing the Ethanol Production Grants Programme on 30 June 2015.
  • The Government will achieve savings of $134.3 million over five years by abolishing the First Home Saver Accounts scheme
  • $229 million saved over 4 years by axing the Dental Flexible Grants Programme.
  • A cut of $173.7 million over 3 years to the Research Training Scheme from 2016
  • Tightened eligibility criteria for the child care providers to access the community support program will save $157.1 million over 3 years.
  • $29.8 million saved over four years by cancelling the Improving Educational Outcomes program
  • $31.1 million saved by reducing funding for Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency
  • $9.9 million saved by axing funding for the nursing and allied health scholarships in Tasmania.
  • $2.3 million cut in contribution to the World Health Organisation

This list of cuts is by no means exhaustive, just a comparison of how the Coalition chooses to spend our money.  If we look at the hundreds of billions they intend to spend on defence in the coming years, we could have free health, needs-based funding for education, real NBN, an increase in research spending, a decrease in university fees, and an increase in Newstart, pensions, and foreign aid as well as taking action on climate change.  It might cost us a few planes and submarines and Tony might have to cut back on a few of the war games he has been planning.  How would you prefer the money be spent?

More great articles by Kaye Lee:

Hi ho, Hi ho….where am I spose to go?

My kids are ok, yours can go beg.

War games

Who are the real leaners here?

Invisible ink

Image from abc.net.au

Image from abc.net.au

If you are looking for Tony’s signature PPL policy in the budget you will need “a scanning electron microscope” according to John Daly of the Grattan Institute.  It only appears in one paragraph.

We are told that the government will cut the company tax rate by 1.5 percentage points (to 28.5%) from 1 July 2015. For large companies, the reduction will offset the cost of the Government’s 1.5% Paid Parental Leave levy but we are not told how much the levy will raise.  We are told that provision has been made for PPL in the contingency reserve, a bucket of money reserved for decisions taken but as yet not announced by government, decisions too late to be included in portfolio estimates and so on, but no specific figures.  We are told the cap reduction to $100,000 has made a small change in the cost, but not how much.

And that is the only thing that you will find in terms of references to paid parental leave – apart from a single line in the Treasurer’s speech – in literally hundreds and hundreds of Treasury documents about the budget.

Tony’s signature policy is written in invisible ink.

The official Treasury explanation is the Commonwealth is still negotiating with the states about their contribution to the scheme, and the funding is included in the budget’s contingency reserves.  The same response has come from Treasurer Joe Hockey.

“We are still negotiating with the states about the scheme and, as you know, we’ve reduced the threshold from $150,000 to $100,000 in relation to the PPL,” he said.  That might prove a little more difficult than expected considering how the Premiers are feeling right now.

Mr Daley does not buy this excuse.

“I would note that there are lots of other things about which there are uncertainties which, nevertheless, go into the budget, particularly at the point that they are formally government policy.  What that doesn’t explain is why there is so little airplay for an important policy. Even if there are plenty of uncertainties around it, it’s already in the numbers in effect.”

When costing the Coalition PPL scheme, the Parliamentary Budget Office said that its estimate of the cost of the paid parental leave scheme is only of low to medium reliability because it is subject to assumptions including working women’s fertility rates, female labour force participation, the wages parents earn and how much leave parents take after the birth of their children.

The Productivity Commission found that PPL schemes like Abbott’s with “full replacement wages for highly educated, well-paid women, would be very costly for taxpayers and, given their high level of attachment to the labour force and a high level of private provision of paid parental leave, would have few incremental labour supply benefits”.

Studies done by the Grattan Institute showed that for every dollar you spend on paid parental leave, you would get double the impact on female workforce participation if you spent it subsidising child care.

A study last year by the OECD on drivers of female labour participation found PPL schemes definitely did improve participation, but the increase in participation from increased spending on such leave schemes is less tangible.

What it did find, however, was that the link between increased spending on childcare and improved female participation was “unambiguous”.

It compared spending on PPL and childcare and noted that “policies to foster greater enrolment in formal childcare have a small but significant effect on full-time and part-time labour force participation – and these effects are much more robust than the effects of paid leave or other family benefits”.

This reflects the work of the IMF last year, which found that “if the price of childcare is reduced by 50 per cent, the labour supply of young mothers will rise on the order of 6.5 to 10 per cent.”

But participation isn’t everything. If female participation is high, but women are mostly working in low-paying jobs with little chance for advancement, that is hardly a good result. A 2012 study attempted to examine the situation from a broader context.

It looked at the “inputs” each country had in place to improve female participation – from steps that governments and the private sector did to improve the economic position of women to the education attainment of women as well as maternity leave and childcare access.

It then looked at the “outputs” of women’s participation in the national economy – such as the ratio of pay between women and men, as the proportion of women among technical workers and also numbers of senior business leaders.

According to these measures Australia, it may surprise you to know, is ranked equal highest with Norway.

On the “Access-to-Work” input, which included pay childcare access and maternity leave provisions, Australia ranked 6th.

The current PPL scheme is not poor in comparison to most other nations. And some nations with smaller PPL schemes like Canada and New Zealand actually have higher female participation rates among 15-64 year olds than does Australia.

Currently 58.4% of all adult women participate in the labour force (ie. as workers, or looking for work); compared with 70.9% of adult men.

The reason for the gap is because of the decline in participation of women aged 25-34 compared to men.

In the early 1980s the drop in participation for women after 25 years of age could be up to 18 percentage points. And it would never recover.  Now there is virtually no difference – in fact the age bracket with the highest female participation rate is the 45-54 age group.

The reality is that given our current position, any gains in women’s participation are always going to be at the margin – our big steps in women’s participation occurred in the 1980s and 1990s owing to societal changes as much as anything else.

Despite all the evidence suggesting that affordable childcare is far more important than increasing paid parental leave, the current review of childcare conducted by the Productivity Commission stipulates any recommendation must “consider options within current funding parameters” – ie. no extra funding.

It seems apparent that in this, like so many other areas, we are ignoring the advice and experience of experts to waste a lot of money satisfying the PM’s vanity.

What’s there to crow about?

Image by imgur.com

Image by imgur.com

Tony Abbott is gleefully crowing about “100+ days without a boat”. What Mr Abbott seems oblivious to is that he has closed yet another door on people fleeing persecution and human rights abuses in places like Myanmar and Sri Lanka. The Taliban just fired rockets at the Electoral Office in Afghanistan so the upcoming election doesn’t look like it will make everything tickety poo over there either. Things don’t seem to be getting any better in Syria though the government haven’t done any mass gassings lately, not in the open anyway.

And it isn’t as if we have increased our humanitarian intake or processed any of the people already being illegally held in detention. This has cost us a fortune, subjected our navy to allegations of abuse, seen us internationally condemned, caused enormous mental and physical harm to vulnerable people, and Australian guards are now implicated in the death of a man who was under their protection. Yet this is supposed to be a success?

Tony’s team are also pushing very hard for the repeal of the carbon tax but it is becoming harder and harder to drown out the chorus of condemnation for such an act from world leaders, the UN, climate change bodies, scientists, economists and the citizens of the world. He accused the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, of “talking through her hat”, and said he doesn’t want to “clutter up” the G20 agenda with talk about climate change. Can you imagine how that was received?

Blatantly sacking scientists and advisory bodies to appoint climate change deniers to every position might allow you to fool people in Australia in the very short term. It will not change the science. This headless chicken (Prince Charles) flat earth (Barak Obama) denial is wasting precious time and shows us globally as unwilling to do our bit – something Australians have always been respected for in the past.

The Senate inquiry into the Direct Action Plan has released its findings and they are damning. If this process is to have any credibility, the Coalition must drop this idea and agree to move to an ETS with higher targets for emission reduction and renewable energy. It is what every expert recommends, especially the economists.

Greg Hunt must be the only Minister for the Environment who would be bragging about approving billions of dollars of new coal mining and port expansion which will unquestionably lead to the degradation of one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. He has also advocated the removal of marine park legislation to allow for commercial fishing, removal of world heritage listing to allow for logging, and the building of dams in our ecologically sensitive pristine North. With an Environment Minister like that, who needs natural disasters?

And then there is the mining tax. On the 7:30 report, Abbott claimed that the mining and carbon taxes were partly to blame for BHP Billiton’s decision to delay the expansion of its huge Olympic Dam mine despite the fact that Marius Kloppers said it had nothing to do with the mining tax which doesn’t even apply to the copper, uranium or gold extracted from the site.

Mining profits worldwide have slumped by half since 2011 as the mining boom comes off its highs according to a report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers which says that higher costs, more writedowns and fluctuating commodity prices have hit the fortunes of the top 40 mining companies including BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

PwC Australia’s head of energy and mining, Jock O’Callaghan, says the possible repeal of the mining tax in Australia is unlikely to have much impact on Australia’s appeal to investors. Not surprisingly, the government has failed to take note of this advice.

Mr O’Callaghan says he expects more mines to close, including in Australia. “Certainly if we see a further downturn in commodity prices that is going to put more pressure on marginal mines,” he said. “There is no denying that and again that is not just an Australian phenomena.”

As Ross Gittins explains,

“For the income earned by an industry to generate jobs in Australia, it has to be spent in Australia. And our mining industry is about 80 per cent foreign-owned. For our economy and our workers to benefit adequately from the exploitation of our natural endowment by mainly foreign companies, our government has to ensure it gets a fair whack of the economic rents those foreigners generate.

Because Labor so foolishly allowed the big three foreign miners to redesign the tax, they chose to get all their deductions up-front. Once those deductions are used up, the tax will become a big earner. Long before then, however, Tony Abbott will have rewarded the Liberal Party’s foreign donors by abolishing the tax.

This will be an act of major fiscal vandalism, of little or no benefit to the economy and at great cost to job creation.”

Mining currently employs about 2.4% of our workforce but this is set to drop as they move into the less labour-intensive production phase. As we saw during the GFC, they are not altruistic benefactors and have little loyalty to their employees. According to Richard Denniss

“When commodity prices fell during the global financial crisis the first thing the mining industry did was sack thousands of their workers. Indeed, according to Treasury, if all industries had been as quick to punt their employees as the mining industry the unemployment rate would have hit 19 per cent rather than its peak of 5.9 per cent.”

Penny Wong described Abbott’s rhetoric regarding the mining tax as “one of the most dishonest, self-interested fear campaigns that we have seen in Australian politics” and I can only agree.

After saying there was no difference between Liberal and Labor on education, we have seen billions cut with a backing away from the bulk of the Gonski funding, the abolition of trades training centres, and cuts to the before and after school care program despite childcare being identified as far more important in improving productivity and workforce participation than paid parental leave.

We have also seen the Coalition attempt to repeal Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act in a bizarre attempt to “protect the rights of bigots”. Countless journalists have said they have not felt constrained in any way by this section of the act and do not see the need for its repeal. This is purely and simply a pander to Andrew Bolt and Rupert Murdoch. Promoting hatred under the name of free speech is a truly cynical exercise which has left many Australians feeling very uneasy about what is happening to our country.

According to the Coalition, our debt and deficit are a real problem and spending must be reined in. While listening to a relentless barrage softening us up for the cuts that are to come, we watch Tony Abbott spend money hand over fist on his Paid Parental Leave scheme, orange life rafts, unmanned drones, planes both for the Air Force and himself, grants to polluters, gambling on the foreign exchange market, tax concessions for the wealthy, subsidies to profitable mining companies, marriage guidance counselling vouchers, and gifts to pollie pedal sponsors.

We are also going to sell everything we own and spend billions to build roads.  Public transport and high speed rail will receive no funding.  I am sure the fact that cars rely on fossil fuels hasn’t entered into the decision making.

With the rollout of the NBN in limbo, Malcolm Turnbull has admitted that he cannot keep his pre-election promises. His inferior offering will take much longer and cost much more than he led us to believe and will be outdated before it is even completed.

Abbott’s rush to sign free trade agreements which include ISDS clauses with all and sundry (No. 87 on the IPA’s wish list), has put our nation at sovereign risk where we will risk being sued if we introduce laws to protect our health and environment. It will almost certainly lead to a huge increase in the cost of medicine as pharmaceutical companies block the release of generic medicines, and a host of other repercussions that we can only anticipate with dread.

We have the Social Services Minister, Kevin Andrews, winding back gambling reforms and disbanding the oversight of charitable bodies. We have the Environment Minister disbanding climate change advisory bodies and removing environmental protection laws. We have the Health Minister disbanding bodies like the Australian National Preventative Health Agency, the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing, the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia, and attacking Medicare with offices closed on Saturdays and co-payments likely. We have the Assistant Health Minister blocking a healthy eating website and the Assistant Education Minister asking childcare workers to give back their pay rise. In fact, I cannot think of one act or one piece of proposed legislation that has been in the best interest of the people of Australia.

With cuts to foreign aid, indigenous affairs, charities, and asylum seeker advocacy groups, it is increasingly obvious that the vulnerable can expect no protection or assistance from this government. They have made their agenda patently clear. Buy a ticket on the Good Ship Rinehart and lift with the rising tide, or be left to drown as the wealthy stand on the shoulders of the poor to board the corporate gravy train.

 

Things we CAN afford

I know times are tough and that we will all have to tighten our belts (well so the government keeps telling me).  The list of things we can’t afford grows longer and more depressing every day.

But take heart.  The list of things we can afford is also growing.

We can afford to spend $9.5 billion over the next four years locking innocent people up in offshore detention camps (though that figure might lower as we kill them off).

We can afford to use a naval flotilla to ward off a few fishing boats.  Under Operation Sovereign Borders two frigates, seven patrol boats and numerous Customs vessels will patrol the seas between Christmas Island and Ashmore Reef and Indonesia.  Anzac Class frigates cost about $207,000-a-day to operate compared with $40,000-a-day for Armidale Class Patrol boats.

We can afford orange life rafts which cost about $70,000 each to leave on Indonesian beaches after one use each.

We can afford to make a gift of two patrol boats to the Sri Lankan Navy and even spend $ 2 million refurbishing them first.  Tiger shooting anyone?

We can afford $14 billion in fossil fuel subsides over the next four years because Lord knows they need our help.

We can afford to give $3.2 billion to the worst polluting companies.  This is not to save or create jobs, it’s a handout so they can upgrade their factories and lower their bills.

We can afford to give $5.5 billion a year to new parents.  The richer you are, the more you will get.

We can afford to spend $40 billion? on a fast internet system that very few people will be hooked up to.  Greenfield developments just became a whole lot more attractive.

We can afford $1.5 billion for the east-west link without seeing the full business case because the state government has refused to make it public (even to Tony).  This is despite the pre-election promise that no infrastructure project over $100 million would go ahead without a CBA.

We can afford to give Rupert Murdoch $882 million because he knows how to shuffle money between companies to avoid paying tax.

We can afford to spend about $600 million on two new bigger planes for Tony so he can accommodate the Murdoch press and his personal film crew in VIP luxury.

We can afford to buy a fleet of bomb proof BMWs for Tony at a cost of about $5 million.

We can afford to pay $300 million a year interest on the money Joe Hockey borrowed to gamble on the foreign exchange market.

We can afford two Royal Commissions at God knows what cost (the 2001-03 Cole royal commission into the building industry cost around $100 million) because 8 investigations into the Home Insulation Scheme weren’t enough – we want to get Kevin and Peter.  The other one is so we can get Julia and Craig and shut the unions up.

We can afford to give Cadbury $16 million because they sponsor the Pollie Pedal ride.

We can afford to give the Manly Sea Eagles $10 million to upgrade their oval because it is in Tony’s electorate and he is the number 1 ticket holder.  We can also afford to give the Brisbane Broncos $5 million because they are owned by Murdoch’s Newscorp.

We can afford $4.3 million for a research company to trawl through millions of Australian social media posts to advise the government on its immigration policies.

We can afford $2.2 million legal aid for farmers and miners to fight native title claims

We can afford to pay Tim Wilson, a man with absolutely no relevant qualifications or experience, $320,000 a year to be an extra Human Rights Commissioner appointed by George Brandis without interview or consultation.  To pay Tim, the programs that may have to be cut on anti-bullying and education for older Australians were just a doddle anyway compared to what Tim can bring to the table.  The fact that Brandis was present at the IPA 70th birthday bash is just happy coincidence.  What a guest list that was.

We can afford to pay Price Waterhouse Cooper to do a study into childcare while the Productivity Commission finishes its study into childcare because Sussan Ley had to have something to talk about first week on the job.  I have no idea how much that would cost but, as they are fondly known as Pick Wallets Clean, childcare workers who were asked to give back their payrise may be a little perturbed.

In fact we can afford countless reviews and audits and consultants and committees and investigations.  I think we are up to about 50 so far but that could be old news.  Considering each of the panel on the Commission of Audit get $1500 per day (and that’s only one review and doesn’t count their office and staff expenses) collectively this has to be in the hundreds of millions.  The cost of white papers and green papers makes red tape look attractive.

As Opposition leader, we could afford to pay Tony Abbott well over $1 million a year in claimed entitlements.  This is on top of his wage and does not include any staff wages.  It’s travel and office expenses.  I can’t wait to see how much he claims as PM.

We can afford to pay for Members of Parliament to go to weddings and wineries and book launches and football matches and real estate hunting tours.  We can afford to buy books for them and build furniture for them and hire private jets for them.

We can afford to pay for Kirribilli House, the Lodge, the other place we rented for Tony and his family that no-one is living in, and the digs at the police barracks (what’s that all about??) as well as being away from home allowance.

We can afford for Parliament to spend two weeks asking about a convicted Egyptian jihadist terrorist kept behind a pool fence and I don’t know how many weeks on AWU slush fund, Slipper, Thomson.  If we took out the daily boat count, there is very little left to justify what we paid them to be there running our country.

We seem to be able to afford a lot of things.  The question is….

Can we afford this government?

The Age of Entitlement is moving up in the world.

PPL

It’s all about redistribution of wealth

In 2002, Tony Abbott’s hostility to paid parental leave reached a crescendo, when he declared to the press: “Compulsory paid maternity leave? Over this Government’s dead body, frankly.”

Writing for The Australian in October 2008, he claimed that paid parental leave – like abortion – was part of a “radical women’s agenda” championed by extreme feminists in the Labor movement. He spoke out about his opposition to the scheme based on the ways it reduced stay at home mothers to second class citizens, lambasting then Prime Minister Rudd’s commitment to women workers as an example of “Political Correctness”; extreme lip-service to the feminists in Labor ranks.

In 2009 the Productivity Commission released its report into Paid Parental Leave stating that:

“Payment at a flat rate would mean that the labour supply effects would be greatest for lower income, less skilled women — precisely those who are most responsive to wage subsidies and who are least likely to have privately negotiated paid parental leave. Full replacement wages for highly educated, well paid women would be very costly for taxpayers and, given their high level of attachment to the labour force and a high level of private provision of paid parental leave, would have few incremental labour supply benefits.”

It went on to say:

“A paid parental leave scheme needs to give particular attention to lower income families:

• The beneficial employment effects of a leave scheme are most likely to be experienced by less well-educated and lower skilled females. Empirical evidence shows that higher effective wages do more to encourage these women to work than more educated, higher paid women.

• Poorer families have less recourse to savings and cannot necessarily support themselves on a low single income, hastening their return to work.

• Lower income families face the greatest barriers to work given the incentives of the welfare system.

Altogether these aspects of poorer families suggests that a statutory paid parental leave scheme must be sufficiently generous to encourage parents to be employed, and when employed, to take a sufficient leave of absence from work around the time of the birth of their babies.

Replacement wages — sometimes the basis for paid leave schemes overseas —would provide weak incentives for lower income families to work, depending on the nature of welfare payments available to those out of the labour force.

Simple provision of replacement wages or prorating of a fixed entitlement based on hours worked would not create the appropriate work incentives for the (probably) most responsive group of people.

The minimum wage typically exceeds the replacement wages of lower income parents (since many work less than full-time hours) and would have generally desirable labour market impacts:

• It would create good incentives to work for lower income females, since the payment is significantly more than the value of income support for women working in the unpaid sector.

• A payment equal to the adult minimum wage for 18 weeks would allow lower income families to extend their leave to an adequate length, yet would avoid skill losses associated with very long leave periods. (In any case, the skill losses for lower skill jobs are likely to be small.)

• Capping of benefits at roughly the minimum wage would limit the benefits paid to well-off families who often already have access to privately negotiated paid parental leave and have a strong capacity for self-financing leave.

• Unlike means-testing of welfare payments, capping is not likely to elicit undesirable labour supply responses by women earning above the capped amount. This is because they would still earn the capped amount provided they took leave (whereas in mean-tested systems, people start to lose benefits when their income exceeds a threshold).”

The Labor Party listened to this advice and introduced the scheme suggested by the Productivity Commission – 18 weeks of parental leave paid at the minimum wage.

In the lead up to the 2010 election, after attending a luncheon on International Women’s Day, Tony Abbott did the most amazing backflip, without consulting his party colleagues, and announced his “rolled gold” PPL scheme which would pay new mothers their regular wage for six months, up to a maximum of $75,000, to be funded by a 1.5 per cent levy on more than 3000 big companies.

In May 2013 he explained it is “all about” encouraging women of “calibre” to have children.  In the scramble to hose down the justifiable backlash to this elitist comment, we were assured it was all about “workforce participation” for women even though the Productivity Commission Report had stated otherwise. It then morphed into some sort of “workplace entitlement” argument.

When asked if the policy should be reviewed, Malcolm Turnbull said “This is a key policy of Tony Abbott’s and it is something that we have as part of our policy and I don’t see any probability or likelihood that of that policy being shelved. Tony is very committed to it.”

Liberal backbencher Alex Hawke called it an “albatross” that must be “scrapped”.  Writing for the Institute of Public Affairs he blasted it as an “unjustifiable impost on business” and said the policy should be reviewed.   “An expansion of the PPL scheme is ill-suited to an economically Liberal agenda,” Mr Hawke wrote.  “Most importantly for Australians, the policy does not pass the fair-go test.”

Big business joined critics of Mr Abbott’s signature paid parental leave scheme with the head of the Australian Industry Group, Innes Willox saying: “There are no positives, no upsides in this policy that we can see for business.  It’s inequitable,” Mr Innes told ABC TV.

“Only the top 3000 or so companies would be paying and they’d be subsidising for everyone else. That doesn’t make sense on that level.  The current system is operating well. It has very broad business and community support. We don’t see any reason to change.”

Even John Roskam of the economically dry Institute for Public Affairs said “There’s widespread concern that the Coalition is supporting a tax increase. And at this time, the Coalition should be talking about cutting taxes and cutting spending, not increasing taxes.”

Considering our supposed “budget emergency” and our “debt crisis”, and the cry for us all to help in the “heavy lifting” now that the “age of entitlement is over”, this hugely expensive and inequitable attempt to show us Tony “gets” women reeks of hypocrisy as do so many of his decisions.

Why not listen to the experts?  It’s quality affordable childcare we need Tony – not handouts to rich women of calibre and grandstanding from hypocritical politicians!

Fair suck of the sav, Tony

fair suck of the sav

Photo: Sydney Morning Herald

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!

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