Where is Australia heading?

If one is to believe the Sydney Morning Herald articles today, Abbott is deep doodoo. Very deep doodoo. The question for many is where is Abbott and his band of merry men, robbing from the poor to pay the rich, leading Australia? Austerity hasn’t worked too well in more than a few economies around the world.

First there was Peter Hartcher with “An own goal but the game is far from over“.  While this article included an unscientific poll asking “Can Tony Abbott’s government recover in time to win the next election?” to which 78% (at the time of writing) of over 30,000 people said a resounding “no”, the article quotes a presumably more scientific poll as finding respondents evenly split on the question of “economically responsible”.

Asked whether the budget was economically responsible, respondents were closely divided, with 49 per cent answering yes and 48 no.

Despite this apparently even split, Mark Kenny shared the results of the latest Herald-Nielson poll in “Tony Abbott pays price for broken promises“. Lovely graphics in this article: I resisted the temptation to steal them so you will have to go click and look for yourself.

Concerns over broken promises and a lack of fairness have been vindicated by an independent analysis of the impact of budget decisions by the Australian National University. It found high-income earners can largely escape the so-called “heavy lifting” of fiscal repair, with some well-paid couples worse off by just 0.9 per cent compared to a single parent on payments with a child aged six, who could lose more than 10 per cent of their income.

Voters agree, with nearly two thirds calling it unfair – 63 per cent, compared to 33 per cent who marked it ”fair”.

I have a bit of an issue with this. The previously quoted poll found 49% found the budget to be economically responsible, but in the second report 63% believed the budget unfair. Does this mean we have a unfair economically responsible budget? Call me old-fashioned, but somehow “unfair” and “economically responsible” seem to be mutually exclusive. But what would I know? I’m only (to steal Noely’s line) an average punter!

Then Peter Martin got on the case with ” ‘Missing’ figures show poor are hit“.

ANU public policy experts Peter Whiteford and Daniel Nethery have crunched the numbers on all the personal tax and benefit changes in Mr Hockey’s budget to replicate the missing table.

Their findings, published by Fairfax Media today, show people on benefits suffer far more from the budget than those on high incomes. The worst off is an unemployed 23-year-old whose income will slide to be 18.3 per cent worse off as a result of the budget.

A single parent on the parenting payment with one child aged six will be 10.2 per cent worse off.

In contrast, someone earning three times the average wage will lose just 0.9 per cent of their take-home income.

There is something that needs to be considered here, as this can be misleading. Welfare payments have been slashed, so obviously those that receive them will be worse off. The people on three times the average wage are less likely to be receiving any welfare payments, or vastly reduced payments, so will see a far smaller reduction. Zero can’t be reduced much.

That small point aside, is it really FAIR that the poorest in our society should be hit the hardest? I think not and it would seem many others agree. If we go back to Kenny’s article, 74% of the poll respondents expected to be worse off and 53% felt the budget is not good for Australia, which again contradicts the 49% who felt it was economically responsible in Hatcher’s article. Polls are wonderful things.  So now we have an unfair and not good for Australia but economically responsible budget.

Shorten is suddenly the preferred Prime Minister and as far as I can tell, he hasn’t done a lot. Abbott has handed Shorten this popularity on a silver platter (which I hope was not paid for with laundered money).

Not to be outdone, Matthew Knott chimed in with “Tony Abbott brushes aside disastrous polls, saying people knew Coalition would have to make tough decisions“.

Although state and territory governments are furious about an $80 billion reduction in funding for schools and hospitals in the budget, Mr Abbott said: “There are no cuts to health or education”.

In my simple view of the world, $80 billion is not a “no cut”, it is a machete attack.

There is certainly an argument for a “tough” budget, but the backlash this time is perhaps the worst in Australia’s political history. The media says worst in two decades, but it is hard to compare to the time of 50 years ago when economies were different.

I have in the past agreed with Joe Hockey, to a point, when he made his stance against the entitlement mentality. How on earth that got translated to the Paid Parental Leave scheme is beyond me. Thankfully the upper limit has been dramatically dropped. Then again, maybe we DO need to breed those “women of calibre” so we can get some in a Liberal cabinet! While I have no philosophical issue with people on the dole (NewStart) doing something to receive the welfare payments, I have major concerns about the practical implementation of any such scheme. I also can’t see many people being able to work until they are 70, other than some rather portly politicians and some other non-manual workers (including celebrities). I’ve also waxed lyrical about the Medicare musical money $7 co-payment.

Where will this budget approach take Australia? To the high levels of unemployment of Spain? 25.3% overall and a whopping 53.9% of under 25s. Pretty shocking stats. A handy country list can be found at countryeconomy.com. Or to a situation like America where having your appendix removed was likely to send you bankrupt? How about thousands living in disused underground rail tunnels?

There is much not right or fair about this budget and I haven’t even touched on education, cuts to services to Indigenous Australians and many other inequities in this attempt to rid Australia of a deficit. By global standards a very small deficit it is too. Greg Jericho says “beware of dodgy maths to sell political agendas“. Greg also has lovely graphs!

Of course, this government is not averse to wasting the odd dollar or two, as Chrys Stevenson points out. All that money for a National School Chaplaincy Program? Let’s not forget the #CashVows as Noely affectionately calls the $200 Marriage Counselling vouchers! There are lots of improvements that could be made BEFORE savaging the poor and vulnerable in society.

7 comments on “Where is Australia heading?

  1. […] first Abbott/Hockey budget certainly stirred up a storm of controversy.  Not just in the mainstream media, but everywhere. There is a very interesting stream of comments […]


  2. We are experiencing something similar here. Our government is all about keeping the rich rich and the poor poor. Though as it is an election year they are tossing a few sweeteners about. Sadly many will fall for it. NZ has stopped caring for its vulnerable citizens and because of the propaganda put out by this government their attitudes are hardening. According to our government benefit fraud is what is driving this country in to the ground. Last year $27 million was the figure. Yet tax fraud/avoidance by the wealthy costs this country billions [6 billion plus last year] every year, and they do so little about it.


  3. ” . . . a situation like America where having your appendix removed was likely to send you bankrupt? How about thousands living in disused underground rail tunnels?”

    Why would anyone want this for the disadvantaged, poor people in our country?
    I hope that more and more Australians and especially the more advantaged people in our country are going to object to these drastic government measures that would lead us down the path the Americans go!

    Yes, Robyn, we will see. I think the more advantaged Australians have nothing to fear, even if they end up with a slight reduction in income. Everyone can see, that it is only the already disadvantaged people who are made to fear the worst. It is not fair, is it?


  4. “Does this mean we have an unfair economically responsible budget?”
    The way I see it, it is definitely unfair for it hits poor people but not the people with a high income. Can you call it economically responsible? The government seems to think so. By reducing welfare payments they avoid accumulating more and more debt. They say Labor got us into debt. They have to get us out of debt. They want to do it by taking away from the poor. The rich people are not affected by budget cuts. So this is economically responsible!


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