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