It’s budget time again and this year we will be promised set top boxes for all pensioners, increased mental health beds in rural and regional areas, $6 extra per week for those earning less than $30’000 and many other inadequate bits and pieces. High income earners and mining companies will get a nice tax break that they don’t need and services we actually do need will be reduced or cut completely. All so that we can return to surplus next year, barring any floods or cyclones of course.
We look forward to seeing how the Government intends to get teenage mums and people on a disability allowance back to work or study. Not because we think the initiatives will work but so that we can call our Government idiots again and use it as fodder on Facebook and Twitter.
So, how could we deliver a fair budget without blowing out costs further? Could we see fit to allow the Government to return it’s budget to surplus one year later than projected due to the nature of the natural disasters this year? I think we could. It’s reasonable, unlike the budget proposals.
What we really need is to give those pensioners the cash and let them use it however they see fit. Every pensioner I know already has a stupid set top box! They might prefer help to pay for a luxury such as quality coffee for a change, or electricity.
Then we need to roll out child care facilities in secondary schools ensuring teenage mums to get the education they are entitled to and are encouraged to stay in school. This initiative would not cost that much to implement as there are very few young mums in each school and the teachers could also use the facility, allowing them to return to work faster after the birth of a child if they choose to do so. A simple crèche with places for up to 10 would be ample for the majority of schools. Incorporating baby wellbeing classes and encouraging prevention of pregnancies in a more pro-active way than the current methods would also be useful as an education tool.
Then we need to ensure employers are offering plenty of job share positions and other flexible arrangements so that those on a disability pension have options if they wish to re-enter the workforce. At the moment there are very few opportunities for people who are restricted by their disability and that problem needs to be addressed. This would include those who are suffering from a mental health illness as quite often long hours prevent them from working and many would return to work if there were more job sharing opportunities. Again, the cost of this is minimal. It’s more about re-educating employers than it is about changing workplaces. The jobs would not increase, just the amount of people doing those jobs.
Next, address the problems faced by many people on low incomes by ensuring that funding is allocated to get them to participate more in their communities. All families earning less than $45'000 per year (combined income) are currently entitled to a Health Care Card. This card should be able to be used to get a substantial discount on sporting endeavours for both adults and children. Many of these families call sport a 'luxury' and it shouldn't be. Other initiatives could also be included in this proposal so long as the benefit is community engagement. It’s well known that this would encourage people to broaden their minds and increase the instances where opportunities arise. Yes, it is who you know, not what you know, but if you aren’t out there getting to know people, the opportunities for you decrease substantially.
Indigenous funding should be increased with funding allocated to encouraging small business ventures within communities. Things like coffee shops, cinemas etc should be encouraged with the full support of small business services both federally and state run. This initiative would allow residents leisure activities that we in city areas are provided and also create business skills for other, more culturally appropriate businesses.
So, how to pay for all of that? Easy.........get rid of the My School website. It costs a fortune and is useless to parents, schools and teachers alike.
Next, do not reduce tax for those earning over $200'000 this year. By all means, once the 'surplus' is reached, do it then but now is not the time for unnecessary reductions.
Then change the asylum seeker policy to make it fairer and less expensive. The reason it costs so much money to hold asylum seekers is because the whole process is outsourced to a company who's primary focus is on making money (after all, that's what businesses do). Instead, use a not-for-profit organisation that will do it for wages and bonuses rather than to make huge profits. It currently costs between $55 and $90’000 per year (depending on which statistics you look at) to house one asylum seeker. If there are people in Australia living reasonably good existences on far less than that, with all the modern conveniences, something is very wrong with this picture. It’s acknowledged that the cost of securing these facilities is probably quite high, but when you average it amongst all residents inside it can’t be as much as that.
Also, speed up the processing. It does not take up to 4 years to decide if someone should be released into the community. That’s absurd. It’s also inhumane. Faster processing would allow space inside the facilities to be filled with new asylum seekers regularly. This would then mean that we would not have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on overseas processing. Saving our money and our reputation all in one fell swoop. By all means, do it properly and there are no objections to refusing status to those who do not meet the criteria and sending them home, just do it faster.
Those few cost saving initiatives mentioned above would cover the first few initiatives that would require spending from the Government. I am not an economist, couldn’t imagine a more boring job to be honest, but I am also no idiot.
Unfortunately, the budget is due today and these ideas are only mine, written for a blog and nothing more. I am saddened by the fact that the party I admire is no longer working with the best interests of the nation. It’s a terrible moment when you realise that the Government is changeable and lacks backbone. When they are making what they consider hard decisions but are not listening to what the people in their own party want, only the polls, it’s not a good feeling. Frankly, not that many people are polled……barely any in rural or regional Australia. I live in hope but must admit that today, my hope for change within the Labor Party is fading fast.