The Coalition’s “election budget” of 2016 has in essence failed to deviate from Australia’s destructive trajectory set out by previous governments. While the budget offers little changes to spending and revenue, those it does alter function in the private interests at the expense of the wider public.
The 2016 budget removes a further $6 billion from welfare, Medicare, Universities and the public service, sectors which are already stretched to breaking point. For universities in particular, despite the fact that deregulation plans have been scuttled by the senate, the loss of funding in this year’s budget represents a 20% reduction in their funding. Unemployment benefits, while removing their “work for the dole” requirements, are replaced with mandatory privatise training similar to those deemed to be in violation of human rights in the UK.
In contrast defence spending has been increased in an attempt to move closer to the arbitrary 2% of GDP figure. Such increases in spending, in the face of white anting of public services, raise serious questions about the government’s priorities if it cannot effectively serve the basic needs of the society it is so desperate to protect.
Howard style hip pocket incentives are also being extended to sections of society from which the government is likely to garner support. The competitive advantage given to small business through tax breaks will be nullified with the extension of such cuts to medium and large business. In a similar fashion the $20,000 instant asset write off for small businesses has been increased to those with a turnover of up to $10 million. High income earners can also expect to receive an effective tax cut in mid-2017, through the scheduled end to the Budget Repair Levy. In a similar vein, changes that counter the impact of “bracket creep” only apply to those in the upper quartile of average earnings.
The 2016 budget maintains Australia’s national reduction in foreign aid spending, while maintaining the billions spent breaking the asylum seekers, or as they are better known in the mayor parties “political capital”, in offshore detention canters.
Finally it blatantly ignores the environmental challenges facing Australia and the world, by maintaining subsidies for big polluters through fossil fuel subsidies. Similarly the budget outlines $1.3 billion of cuts from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, a move which for a nation banking its future on “innovation” is laughable. The $170 million of extra funding to protect the Great Barrier Reef are in fact funds that have been shifted across from similarly environmentally important Landcare programs.
The Government, in its desire to produce an electorally palatable budget, has produced a document that fails to meet the needs of Australia moving forward. It can be assessed as a politically motivated document working to serve the interests of the Coalition and its benefactors.