This year’s National Budget is a con and continuation of business as usual

By Joe Montero

Make no mistake about it This year’s federal budget is an attempted con for election purposes, and its real content is to set up for a massive new cut to services.

Take the tax cut. Most of the benefit will go to those with the top incomes, with a little spill over into those on middle level incomes to sweeten the deal. the super rich may not be getting theirs immediately. But it is in the pipeline.

The tax cut is not a measure to help those in financial stress, but on the contrary, to redistribute income upwards, even more than it has been already.

This is a budget servicing the wealthy. Modelling by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), which already had the information on hand, reveals that lower to middle income earners would only get 50 cents to a maximum of $4 a week, far less than stands to be lost. Those with incomes between $40,000 and $200,000 a year will get no tax break. Those enjoying higher incomes will get $104 a week. The pretence that the government is handing out a tax break to Australians must be called out.

Handouts like the $100 million to Queensland and Victoria over the next ten years for infrastructure, the national $500 million “commuter car park fund,” said to be aimed to get cars off the road, provision $50 million for small and medium businesses to write off assets and a little to hire apprentices, $448 million for the government’s primary funding care model, and a minimal amount for early education services, do not change the basic regressive nature of the budget.

They are a sugar coating, designed to cover the bitter taste of the pill.

As he delivered the budget, Josh Frydenberg resurrected the old budget deficit bogey. This is politician speak for cuts to services are needed to cut this down and aim for a surplus. If the deficit is the problem it is purported to be, why then, cuts in services to ordinary people, and rises in the bankrolling of the richest?

The answer is that this is not about the budget deficit. It is a continuation of the neoliberal approach, which claims that the only path is make the biggest investors happy by increasing the return to them, unrestricting the market, pulling the government out of the provision of services, and allowing access to public funds.

Josh Frydenberg could not admit this truth. If he did, the coalition could kiss the election goodbye.

People on Newstart will not get an increase. They get to miss out on the government’s Energy Assistance plan. Pensioners of all types miss out on increases in benefits, although the value of what they get is declining quickly. Farmers, many of who are suffering under the burden of climate warming and drought get a mere $6.3 million. There is nothing to build a sustainable economy.

Although $308.9 billion has been earmarked for health services, it is hardly enough to meet the need of a system that has been eroded through continuous cuts. Much of it will be handed to private health providers of the increasingly privatised health service, and it is likely that the public component will be eroded further. Is this the best way to use the money?

There is nothing for education, which has also suffered from a thousand cuts. Nothing is provided for an Australia experiencing a housing crisis. There is a huge backlog of public and other forms of social housing. Homelessness is now at a level not seen since the Great Depression.

There is nothing to make a change to stagnant state of wage growth, even though it is widely acknowledged that this is a severe problem for wage earners and the economy.

This budget is a long way from even trying to meet Australia’s social needs.

It is also economically irresponsible, because it continues a policy direction that has contributed so much to aggravate the economic problems that Australia suffers. Handing more to the big investors has not translated into more investment into the real economic needs of the nation. What it has encouraged, is an overblown and corrupt financial system; rampant speculation tax dodging on a massive scale; and the loss overseas, of wealth created in Australia. Is more of the same going to changed this?

The more we get the more parasitical the economy will become, and the worse off the majority will be.

Frydenberg promised to go after big corporate tax dodgers and make sure everyone pays their fair share. Don’t you believe it. If it was true, surely there would have been specific measures to do this in this budget.

Instead, we get the mantra on the budget deficit. This is code for an intention to cut funding across services, which will commence immediately after the election, should the Coalition manage to win it.

Real economic reform that has a chance of reversing Australia’s problems must involve a redistribution of income downwards, and secure sufficient government revenues to invest in both targeted and sustainable growth, and to tackle our social needs. This is not what’s on offer and should therefore be rejected out of hand.

Update: Since the writing  of this article the Coalition government has responded to the public outrage and now those on Newstart are also entitled to the Energy Assistance. But before getting to carried away, it represents less than a single month’s energy costs for the average household. It should also be mentioned that the cost of involving Australia in the American military machine remains a significant cost, money that could be better spent.

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