Contributed by Joe Montero
Scott Morrison will hand down the budget today. Some bits have been revealed and it doesn’t look good. There will be nothing in it that will tackle the real needs of Australia.
University students will have to pay 7.5 more on fees and university funding will be cut by 20 percent, as universities are pushed further into becoming private business institutions, compelled to seek funding from the private sector sell entry into courses. For primary and secondary education, there is Gonski 2, which means, less funding for this sector as well.
So much for developing Australia’s skills base and lifting the nation’s competitiveness, in a world moving forward with new innovations. Lack of support for comprehensive education reveals the Turnbull government’s bent towards a two tiered education system. One for the wealthy and a third rate one for everyone else.
While $50 billion is being directed to infrastructure development, aside from the Western Sydney Airport and inland freight rail, nothing else is known about where the money is going. It could be positive. Or it could be socially and economically harmful. It depends on the detail.
Housing is one of the biggest issues in Australia today. Its high cost is the major cause of poverty and urgent action to make affordable housing a priority is needed. Although there will be a scheme to provide some cheaper housing loans, it is far too little. There is a failure to build enough public housing, impose any level of rent control and to abolish negative gearing, measures that would make housing more affordable.
Health is largely an unknown. While there is the promise to push doctors into prescribing more generic drugs, there is an intention to gradually pull away from government funding of the Pharmaceutical Benefits scheme (PBS) and provide grants to the pharmaceutical companies, in the guise of support for research and development. Money that that these multinationals will syphon out of the country, because their research infrastructures are overseas. There is no new money for hospitals and other health services.
Pressure to limit Medicare further is still on, although the government remains wary of a repeat of last year’s backlash. Don’t be surprised if there are some new restrictions.
Welfare will be hit hard. Further restrictions and conditions to receive payments will come in. And there will be an increase in government control on how recipients spend their benefits. There will be no increase to alleviate the growing number of people finding themselves in serious poverty or action to take on the alarming rise in homelessness.
Although under duress, the government had to reverse the earlier $55 million cut to community legal centres, there will be no increase for a service in financial crises and legal assistance to those who cannot afford the high legal fees is in jeopardy.
Tax cuts are aimed towards benefiting the most wealthy. Company tax will be cut. Although the public backlash has limited this to those with a turnover up to $50 billion a year, the cut will be ratcheted up to include all companies. Nothing is being done to counter the multi-billion-dollar corporate tax evasion industry. Nor is anything being done to make the tax system fairer by cutting the burden on wage earners and Centrelink recipients.
Tax cuts for the rich and a greater burden on those less fortunate does not only bring bad social consequences, it harms the economy by trimming the market. This is turn, hits business performance.
The media monopolies, especially news Limited will be handed a present, in the form of a go ahead to expand cross ownership and this is to be sweetened with the abolition of licence fees.
A $100 million fund is to be created to encourage manufacturers to diversify. In the face of the demise of the vehicle industry and its impact on manufacturing generally through its linkages, this is no more than a public relations con. Much more is needed to restore Australia’s manufacturing base. Without sufficient support, it will continue to decline and without manufacturing, Australia’s future does not look good.
This is going to be a budget that does nothing to meet the needs of Australians, or help to set a foundation for fair and sustainable economic health in the future. It follows the same worn out path. There will be almost nothing positive in it, ensuring that the problems of toady will remain just the same.