Contributed from New South Wales
The Turnbull government has made clear its intention to slash provision for unemployment benefits (Newstart) and childcare by $8 billion.
A bill is to be introduced in parliament that,
- increases the age of eligibility for unemployment benefits from 22 to 25. Young job seekers will receive a Youth Allowance of $428 a fortnight, which is $45 less than now.
- forces job seekers under 25 will have to wait four weeks before accessing income support.
- abolishes the Energy Supplement, worth up to $14 a fortnight, for new welfare recipients.
- caps Government-funded and employer-paid parental leave at 20 weeks a year.
- stops Pension payments to Australians who travel for more than six weeks overseas.
On the childcare side, the bill will abolish the family tax benefit supplements worth up to $726 a year per child, which far exceeds the $20 per child fortnight tax benefit concession and amounts to a cut of $1.3 billion.
The bill has been branded as anti-family by welfare groups.
The prime minister is calling this, a “very big social reform,” which “…will make childcare more affordable and more available, especially for families on lower incomes…”. Critics don’t see it.
There are signs that Xenophon, whose party’s votes will be crucial in the Senate, is moving towards supporting the bill. Pauline Hanson is also likely to support it, although she argues that it still does not do enough to cut the social government’s welfare expenditure.
With Xenophon and Hanson support the bill is likely to get through the Senate and add to the ongoing cuts to welfare recipients, already suffering from fall in the real value of benefits that have not kept up with the increased cost of living over the years.
By attacking those least able to defend themselves, the government provides itself with a soft target, to implement its fiction that the government needs to tackle the so-called deficit crisis.
No matter how much the government cuts in the provision of services to the average Australian, overall government expenditure does not go down. It is not about cutting expenditure. This is about where the expenditure is going. There is no problem lifting politician’s benefits, or lifting corporate welfare.
Perhaps there needs to be another set of priorities.