Date published: Tuesday 2 April 2019
BY MARCIA BALZER
“If you've got a two-income family - let's say a teacher and a tradie - both earning $50,000 or $60,000 a year, in 13 weeks' time they will get $2160 additional income into their pockets... This is real money to real people and it's rewarding their effort,” Josh Frydenberg said in his post-Budget interview with Leigh Sales on ABC.
This year’s federal Budget is all about tax cuts. With a long-awaited influx of revenue, the Prime Minister has been heard to say in the lead up that he can “afford to spend money”. Clearly the key priority has been to appeal to the 70% of voters in the middle income tax bracket by offering moderate but noticeable tax relief.
No doubt this is good news for people struggling with low wage growth and rising costs of living.
If you find you have a spot of surplus cash because you negotiated a lower car insurance premium, or someone gave you an unexpected gift, or your tax return was bigger than you expected, what you choose to spend that money on says a lot about your values.
The Treasurer’s comment above might imply that the Government’s attention in this budget is primarily for those citizens it considers worthy of rewarding.
If you look at this year’s Budget priorities, you could be forgiven for assuming that the Government does not think the most vulnerable Australians are worthy of rewarding. Not only will people on the lowest incomes not receive any direct benefits from the tax cuts, but anyone on Newstart was not even going to receive the one-off energy payment.
Income support to asylum seekers has been cut yet again, potentially pushing very vulnerable people further into destitution. And with the extension of the cashless debit card across the whole Northern Territory, we can expect people to experience even greater hardship due to this restriction on their access to cash.
Infrastructure featured prominently in the Budget, as it did last year. After the release of the 2018-19 Budget I wrote a comment piece, Investing in the infrastructure of Australian communities. Those thoughts are perhaps even more relevant this year. While the economy is important, it’s the people and their communities that make that economy function.
We certainly warmly welcome any funding to help alleviate the serious waiting list for aged care home care packages. Funding for 10,000 packages announced in February ahead of any findings of the Royal Commission is going to be very helpful in getting support to more older Australians. If you’ve been following the Royal Commission, you’ll know that there are a lot of urgent reform issues that need to be addressed. Bringing forward some relief to the waiting list will be valuable in the meantime, though there will still be 120,000 people waiting for services.
The Government had already announced its $328 million package to support the Fourth Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010‑2022. This is a welcome and necessary commitment to continue national progress in addressing domestic violence. Some commentators have mentioned that the investment is helpful, but perhaps not really large enough to have a significant impact on the size of our national domestic violence problem.
Disability funding includes $528 million to the Royal Commission, along with some benefits from NDIS underspending to the overall Budget position and recent commitments to additional NDIS funding.
But the vast majority of this year’s Budget focus is on other things – tax cuts, infrastructure, health. These are important things. But I do wonder what it says about us as a nation that we have once again missed the opportunity to take concerted action to address our most pressing social needs. At the end of the day, it’s the people with the least money and power who would benefit if we seriously took on those challenges.