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Tag Archives: progressive




The 2014 budget omitted the table of adjusted family outcomes that had been in every previous budget since 2005. The analysis was done by treasury and available for inclusion but that it was not there indicates it was deliberately omitted. The figures went to Cabinet, so they were fully aware of the allegedly inequitable outcomes. Was it omitted for political reasons? The Coalition and its budget already have a problem with the public believing (and increasingly, and justifiably so) that it is unfair. Long-term observers have held the suspicion that the Coalition governs for its mates, the well-to-do, the elite, the born-to-rule set, and nothing in the budget, nor the Coalition’s rhetoric and off-budget policies since, have given cause to doubt this. For just a few examples, consider:

  • University FEE-HELP changes to impact disproportionately on poor graduates
  • A permanent hit to pensions and welfare vs. a short-term levy for the rich
  • The $7/visit co-payment for GP visits (the well-to-do might complain over a copayment but it is the poor who will simply stop going.) This might also reduce rates of vaccination in Australia, putting the whole country at greater risk.

The perception that the budget is unfair is widespread and even having an effect on business support for the Coalition’s policies. Could the Coalition cope with further documents showing that the poor would pay disproportionately for the Coalition’s fictitious “budget repair process”, and that the Coalition knew about it and went ahead anyway?

Fairfax and other outlets have sought this information, and failed to receive it. Accordingly they and other analysts have done their own sums on the basis of published figures. The analysis confirms that the poor will be harder-hit than the wealthy.

Joe Hockey has been up in arms about Fairfax publishing this analysis. “It doesn’t tell the whole story,” he says. “It doesn’t reflect the fact that the rich pay more tax, and that the taxes of the average wealthy person pay the social support for an average four recipients of welfare.” Fairfax’s reporting “failed to take account of the higher rate of income tax already paid by higher-income households”. “Fairfax reporting has been malevolent,” he says.

Let’s pause for a moment and consider Hockey’s reported statements on the issue of equality, tax and welfare.

“In fact, just 2 per cent of taxpayers pay more than a quarter of all income tax. Maybe these taxpayers would argue that the tax system is already unfair.” “The average working Australian, be they a cleaner, a plumber or a teacher, is working over one month full time each year just to pay for the welfare of another Australian.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-11/hockey-tries-to-set-straight-perception-budget-is-unfair/5516718

What does this say about Joe Hockey’s fundamental concept of social welfare? In a nutshell, it suggests that he is either beholden to, or at least panders to, selfishness. In Hockey’s world, it is portrayed as a bad thing that people with resources assist those without. This is a profoundly anti-charitable approach.

Our society has put in place progressive tax systems, effective social welfare structures and a range of subsidies, payments and tax breaks in an ongoing and long-term attempt to find a comfortable middle ground, where the privileged can continue to prosper whilst the downtrodden are assisted to keep their heads above water. Obviously Mr Hockey, and the Coalition, believe that the middle ground has trended too far in one direction. The problem is that society as a whole does not appear to agree with them.

Of course higher income households pay more tax. That’s the whole point of a progressive tax system. To argue that it’s justified to penalise low income workers more because they pay less tax is an attack on the very principle of the sliding scale. That’s an ideological position and it’s a valid choice, but it should be understood as such. Penalising more or less on the basis of tax rates entails an effective change in those rates. In other words, arguing that you can implement changes that hurt the poor more than the rich because the rich already pay more tax, is effectively arguing for a tax cut for the rich, or an extra tax for the poor, depending on how you want to look at it, and it is in no way an equitable outcome.

Let’s take a step backwards and approach this differently. Assume that every Australian is going to pay the maximum $844/pa as a result of the 2014 budget. Now you start handing some of that money back in concessions. $50 to this group, $100 to that, $327 to the top bracket. Why do you do this? Because they’re already paying a lot of tax. You are levelling the playing ground. You are moving closer to a situation where everyone pays the same amount of tax. This is the opposite of a progressive tax system.

Malevolent: adj. “Wishing evil or harm to another or others.” With his 2014 budget, Mr Hockey is seeking to specifically do harm to those who belong to a different socioeconomic class than himself. Now who’s being malevolent?

Yes, Mr Hockey, the 2014 budget is indeed unfair. It does increase inequity. You’ve known it since well before the budget was announced. And the way you’re talking about it, and responding to the questions about its unfairness, seems to indicate that the unfairness is quite deliberate. I’m not entirely sure that’s the message you were trying to achieve.

In the Dark Shadow of Conservative Rule

Chifley As a senior Australian and one who has witnessed a variety of social reforms over the past 60 years, today I feel profoundly sad. This is the first such occasion where, instead of being proud that we are a middle world power with the vision and foresight to lead the world to a better place, I feel a sense of betrayal that we have, in fact, now gone in the opposite direction. While I can remember occasions where we have been at the forefront of innovation and cutting edge technology, I can’t recall a previous time where we have chosen to go against all the scientific advice and taken such a backward step as to reverse a progressive climate change policy using a market based mechanism.

As I reviewed the period that spans my life it became patently obvious that our progress, economically and environmentally over that time, has come predominantly from Labor governments. Over that period we have criss-crossed from conservative government to reformist on seven occasions. From Ben Chifley’s post war reconstruction of the Australian economy including our first locally produced car and the beginning of the politically divisive Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority, we then sat through 23 years of conservative rule where the baby boomer generation essentially grew up parallel to a trajectory driven by an influx of European immigrants and the augmentation of manufacturing, construction and overseas commerce.

Whitlam In short, our economy, like most western economies of the time, was on auto pilot; a development not driven by any major reforms of the Menzies government, just a natural growth pattern born of a determination to give baby boomers something better. At the end of the sixties, sick and tired of a mistake-ridden, boring conservative ruling class, we looked to Gough Whitlam’s refreshing and progressive approach. It was here we saw the end of our involvement in the Vietnam War, the end of conscription and the introduction of social reforms based on compassion for an underclass and included a world class Medibank/Medicare social health system. The people, however, thought that the rate of change was too fast; it frightened them. The previous government had lulled them into a half sleep.

Hawke keating Then after a seven year period of economic turmoil under Malcolm Fraser where the cash rate peaked at 22% under the management of the then treasurer, John Howard, we turned once more to Labor for relief and witnessed the great economic reforms of the Hawke and Keating governments.

Thirteen years later the conservatives returned and rode fortuitously on the back of a mining boom they thought would never end. It took a while to see through them but we finally got sick of the blatant hypocrisy of a conservative government that said one thing and did another. Kevin Rudd looked like the light on the hill with his, “great moral challenge” but it was Julia Gillard’s introduction of a carbon pricing mechanism, that confirmed Labor as the only party capable of showing the way forward.

Gillard Labor’s demise in 2013 had nothing to do with the carbon tax or the influx of asylum seekers; they governed the country well under difficult circumstances but couldn’t govern themselves. Internal disunity is one thing Australians will not tolerate; nor should we. But the long standing tradition of reform begun by Chifley continued under Gillard’s watch.

Today we live once again under the dark shadow of conservative rule where the ideology of protecting the strong continues. Any agenda that smells of social equality is anathema to these proxies for big business and the free flow of capital and deregulation.

Now, with the carbon tax legislation repealed we are back in that vacuum of denial driven not by science but a theology so false and so evil at its source that it contradicts everything that has previously generated pride in our achievements. In time, the people will once again tire of seeing their living standards fall; they will be wiser to the broken promises, the pious rhetoric of dishonest men, the incessant greed that drives their masters so relentlessly. They will witness the rest of the world adopting some form of carbon price mechanism and eventually be forced to play catch-up. Then, they will long for the great reformers of the past. Frankly, it can’t come soon enough

To echo the words of Lenore Taylor of The Guardian: “It is a sad and sorry place for Australia to be after such a long and rugged process.”