Less than 12 months ago, the Business Council of Australia published its wish list in two plump reports. They demanded cuts to government spending on the poor and the working class. They demanded reduced entitlements for those dependent on welfare. They demanded a tax system that would tie down the poor and further stimulate profitability.
Now the BCA has the lot. The Council got its preferred party into power and then lined itself and its allies up to write the list of demands – demands which became the Commission of Audit, headed by BCA president Tony Shepherd. Joe Hockey has been only too happy to satisfy.
In his address Hockey said, “The age of entitlement is over, it has to be replaced, not with an age of austerity, but with an age of opportunity.” There are few greater examples of a confident ruling class taking an opportunity to trample the poor than this budget.
Whether we’re talking about the chronically sick whose medical bills will now skyrocket, the worker who loses their job, the student trying to get into higher education, the single parents and families struggling to feed and clothe their kids, the young unemployed person who can’t find a job, this Budget will hurt them.
It’s a budget through which billions will be sliced from the company tax take. Yet the sick will be slugged with co-payments for GP visits. It’s a budget through which billions will be added to student debt. Yet the mining companies will continue to take home $2.4 billion in diesel fuel rebates every single year.
This is a budget through which age pensions will be driven below the poverty line. Yet high income earners will reap tens of billions more in tax concessions on their superannuation. It’s a budget in which the government finds $12 billion to spend on new fighter jets. Yet $8 billion is cut from foreign aid.
Perhaps the worst piece of Hockey bastardry is his attack on Medicare. It’s gone now as a system of free universal health insurance. Every way the sick turn they’ll be hit with new charges: $7 to see the GP, get a pathology test or an X ray; $5 added to the cost of every single prescription drug, quite easily adding $20 or $30 a week to the cost of medical care for many chronically sick people.
And students are fucked. $80 billion is coming out of health and education within 10 years. When students finish school their chance of getting into university will be much diminished as the vice chancellors have been given the right to jack up fees. Government contributions to HECS will diminish and repayments will be higher and earlier.
Not to mention the attacks on the unemployed. The six month waiting period for Newstart for under thirties (followed by six month cycles of alternately working for the dole and complete deprivation) could very well be named the most disgusting attack on welfare in Australia’s history.
If there’s no money for pensioners, students, workers and the unemployed, there’s plenty for the construction companies and property developers, with $12 billion being splashed out on infrastructure. It’s not the kind of infrastructure aimed at ordinary working class people: better public schools and hospitals, better parks and playgrounds for kids, more efficient public transport networks and public housing.
Instead, it’s bigger, more pollution enabling roads (like Melbourne’s East West link), ports, railways and airports to make the wheels of industry turn faster and more cheaply. That all this is for business, not workers, is clear from the reintroduction of six monthly fuel excise indexation – but only for cars and utes; commercial trucks will not get slugged by the increase.
Then there’s the military. Defence spending will lift to 2 percent of GDP, or about $30 billion in today’s terms, within a decade. And $1.5 billion in hardware spending has been brought forward with immediate effect.
The rich have stacked the system in their favour for years – with tax cuts, privatisation, user pays, government handouts, attacks on trade unions and the minimum wage. They’ve created a society in which the rich trample the poor. They demand a US-style health and education system where only the wealthy get a chance in life. They berate the unemployed and the low paid as social failures while celebrating the lives of the crooks who steal from people’s life savings.
This is perennially the equation under capitalism. The richest sixty seven people in the world have as much money as the poorest three and a half billion, while the income share of the top 1% in Australia has doubled over the last thirty years. This budget’s only a hint of what’s to come and a test for Australian business and their Liberal cronies of what they can get away with. There has never been a greater need to resist.
Con Karavias is one of the MSA Environment and Social Justice Office-Bearers and member of Socialist Alternative
Lot’s Wife contacted the ALP, Liberal and Greens clubs on campus for comment on the Budget but they have yet to respond at time of writing