Allan Takes Aim Blog

Could the budget be Labor’s swan song?

Posted on: 14 May 2011

A blog. Not a Chronicle column.

If you visited Canberra during the past few weeks you might have imagined you had returned to an earlier time and landed in Babel. You would have gained this impression because of the wall-to-wall sound made by politicians babbling away about the budget all the while imagining voters were waiting eagerly to know what it said in relation to particular issues.

For example many people I know wanted to know how the mental health area was treated because, in previous budgets, this area had not been given the funding it deserved. In my opinion it was passed in previous budgets because politicians never thought they would be affected by mental health problems. That it has now gained funding is due, no doubt to the fact that some politicians have been affected.

But mental funding apart, in case you didn’t hear or haven’t read the budget speech let me take you through a few extracts and make some comments

“Mr Speaker, the purpose of this Labor Government, and this Labor Budget, is to put the opportunities that flow from a strong economy within reach of more Australians.

 “To get more people into work, and to train them for more rewarding jobs. So that national prosperity reaches more lives, in more corners, of our patchwork economy.”

Much as I, personally, wish for a strong economy and infrastructure development, the question that must be asked is: will Australia have the housing necessary to accommodate the people who will manage and operate increased infrastructure?

In his speech the Treasurer also made the claim that “over 300,000 jobs have been created in the past year and the unemployment rate is forecast to fall further to 4½ per cent by mid 2013, creating another half a million jobs.” Well, who am I to argue with the Treasurer’s figures, but 800,000 full time jobs seems more aspirational than real?

And let me ask also how many of the 300,000 were in the one hour or few hours a week category that classed people as being employed thus removing them from unemployment statistics and will the same happen with half million?  To be fair however, as this system also applied when the Coalition was in Government I think it’s about time a new system was developed.

Apart from that fact that we need a new system to show the real number of unemployed, the new system should also show how many jobs are being left unfilled due to a shortage of staff. Such a system might also prevent the unemployed being used as political tools.        

As for screening people on a disability pension, being disabled myself but having worked in the disability field for many years before becoming disabled, and with family members born with a disability, I feel qualified to talk about this issue. That being so, I worry about where the hundreds of qualified people will come from who will be needed to carry out the screening process and assess whether or not a person should receive a disability pension.

Let me add that I favour getting rid of the fraudulent disabled who collect disability pensions. At the same time, however, I’d like to rid the disability field of those for whom the disabled are simply a short-term meal ticket, because getting rid of them would also bring benefit to people with a disability.

Perhaps the latter could be retrained in the skills many employers say they are short of? I’m not talking simply about mining skills but the skills needed for industries the Greens, in particular, say are Australia’s future. If, apart from wind and solar power, they said what these industries were, I might be tempted to believe them, but until then, and to quote Samuel Goldwyn: “include me out”  

Now let me turn from the jobless to the homeless. By homeless I don’t just mean people who, find themselves in that situation through no fault of their own, but hardworking families who have lost their homes because they can’t afford to pay the mortgage or afford ever increasing rents and so have to live with relatives and/or friends or possibly in their car. 

This leads to the issue of affordable homes. For some unknown reason this issue didn’t manage to make it into the budget speech. Presumably these families were included in “building the productive workforce our economy needs,” a statement whose credibility might best be summed up by the phrase: tell that to the marines.

While increased funding will help provide better hospitals and health care, unfortunately, many homeless families are likely to draw heavily on both services. And while better schools are welcome, children from homeless and disadvantaged families are also unlikely to feel the benefit. Sadly, it has to be said Governments use budgets to gild the lily.

Indeed, even according to families with homes, the budget will further strain their finances and add to their social problems as they face the mounting costs of electricity, water, interest rates and other new taxes on living being introduced by the Government. Some even might feel inclined to think themselves, in the words of former Prime Minister Robert Menzies, as forgotten people.                

Although impossible to cover the budget comprehensively, let me draw your attention to a statement made by the Treasurer during a number of interviews following the budget: “a surplus in 2013 is an achievement.” This is a statement of aspiration but whether or not it will come true won’t be known until 2013. It also puts into doubt some of the Treasurer’s other claims.

That being the case, can we even believe the words with which he closed his budget speech?

“We believe in the Australian promise; that if you work hard, you won’t be left behind. We believe our economy can’t afford to waste a single pair of capable. And we believe this budget, our tax reforms, and our plans for a carbon price will set Australia up for the prosperous future all our people deserve.”

I don’t think so


8 Responses to "Could the budget be Labor’s swan song?"

I can’t seem to be able to reach this post from my droid!!!

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