So apparently we are in a ‘budget crisis’. A ‘trillion dollar debt’ that needs urgent attention, caused by the follies of the previous government. This is the excuse the Albanese Government uses whenever they don’t want to spend money on something – whether it is paid pandemic leave, or increasing JobSeeker payments for those who are already living well below the poverty line. “When it comes to the budget position, I think there is a case for a more substantial look at trimming and cutting back some of this wasteful spending that we’ve inherited,” Treasurer Jim Chalmers told the Australian Financial Review back in June.
If Jim is really so concerned about the budget crisis, here are some ideas that could actually save or make money that don’t involve making poor people even poorer.
- Don’t implement the stage three tax cuts: Introduced by the last Government (with support of the ALP) the stage three tax cuts will benefit the top 1% of earners as much as the bottom 60%. Due to be implemented in 2024, by 2030 they will cost $37 billion a year. That is a lot of fucking money that could be spent elsewhere.
- Get rid of fossil fuel subsidies: In 2021 – 2022 the Federal Government spent $10.5 billion on fossil fuel subsidies, $1.4 billion more than the year before. Getting rid of these huge subsidies for fossil fuel industries would be a great way for the ALP to both save some money and address climate change. Win-win!
- Implement a windfall profit tax: While worker wages are going backwards, large companies are making huge profits, often from external shocks that has nothing to do with them. It’s just dumb luck. For example, fossil fuel companies are beneficiaries of soaring oil and gas prices caused by the war in Ukraine. Advocated by economists such as Joseph Stiglitz, a windfall profit tax would be one way to adjust this problem, bringing in billions of dollars that could be spent on social programs.
- Get rid of mutual obligations and Work for the Dole: Mutual obligations and Work for the Dole force jobseekers to undertake onerous, unnecessary, and sometimes activities to get welfare. The new system implementing this, Workforce Australia, costs $1.5 billion to do this. Just take this money and use it to increase JobSeeker.
- Abolish the basics card: The new ALP Government promised to end income management for those on welfare, but legislation this week will keep thousands of mostly indigenous people on the so-called ‘BasicsCard’. This costs millions of dollars, money that could just go into increasing welfare payments for all.
- Stop funding private schools: The Federal Government spends billions of dollars on private schools, much more than they give to the public system. What do you reckon? Should that money be spent on a new private plunge pool for the school principal of Kings School in Sydney, or basic resources for some of our poorest students? I know what I think!
- End the private health rebate: The private health rebate is money the Government gives to people who buy private patient hospital cover, with the idea that it would take pressure off the public health system. The rebate costs $7 billion a year, but it has not achieved any of its goals. Could you imagine what that could do for a public health system that is currently under massive strain?
- End corporate tax avoidance: Since 2013, 168 of Australia’s biggest companies have paid no tax. These companies take profits but don’t give back to our society. A range of measures to fix this could bring in up to $4.5 billion over ten years. Imagine what we could spend that money on!
- Get rid of negative gearing: We’re in a massive housing crisis and Government policies play a major role. Negative gearing, which allows landlords to offset losses on a property against their total income, gives incentives for people to think of property solely as an investment rather than someone’s home. And it costs $13 billion a year! The ALP wanted to get rid of it once and would surely have the numbers to do so now.
- Close the offshore detention camps: In the last financial year, the Government spent $957 million to imprison people in offshore detention centres. Not only is the system cruel therefore, but it is also ridiculously expensive. We could take that money and use it to help people resettle here and we’d likely have plenty of change left over.
Now admittedly, a lot of these ideas would require the Government to drop promises it made in the lead up to the election. But here’s the thing. We’re in a crisis! And not just any old crisis, either. It’s a ‘budget crisis’. And when you’re in a budget crisis, you have to make tough decisions. That’s been the case for decades.
But, for a change, instead of those decisions being against the interests of the poor, perhaps this ‘crisis’ can mean a whole lot of decisions against the rich and powerful? You know, just for a change?
Image credit: AAP Image / LUKAS COCH