As the grinning Josh and Scoff strode into the courtyard to tell the assembled media throng that we will probably have a surplus in a year or so, I found myself wondering so what?
A surplus doesn’t house the homeless or feed the hungry. It doesn’t protect the vulnerable. It doesn’t improve the environment. It doesn’t build infrastructure.
We are told that a strong economy will mean more schools and hospitals, but that only works if you spend the money rather than sitting on it.
Announcing a future surplus is a meaningless gesture.
Now if they had announced that, because of an increase in revenue, they were increasing pensions and unemployment payments, then that may have been cause for celebration. If they announced that, as power is an essential item, they were removing GST from it, we would have felt some benefit.
As it is, Josh and Scoff are telling us that companies are making such huge profits that the government has plenty of unexpected revenue coming in. Full stop.
Well great for them.
But what about the workers whose wages have been stagnating for years while company profits have soared? If the government announced a resumption of the scheduled increases in the Superannuation Guarantee then workers would share in a small part of the profits their labour has generated. If they don’t want to pay penalty rates because Sunday is just like every other day, how about lifting the minimum wage?
Instead of hatching a surplus, which is, after all, just a number on a spreadsheet, what if they built high speed rail to make decentralisation easier and more attractive? Not to mention the employment it would generate in regional areas for decades of construction.
Instead of advertising campaigns about domestic violence, they could fund refuges and early intervention and support programs. They could build more affordable public housing. They could restore legal aid funding.
They could even realise that education is an investment and restore funding to public schools and increase subsidies for tertiary education so our children don’t start life with a huge debt.
If they have a surplus, why did they need to increase the fuel excise?
My point is that a surplus is a pointless waste when there are so many pressing needs to address. It is the perfect example of how society now serves the economy rather than the other way round.
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