Open Thread – the Budget

We all know it’s coming. We all know it’s going to be ‘tough’ (to quote Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Treasurer Wayne Swan, Finance Minister Penny Wong and a host of others). Yes, Budget time looms again on the horizon – and it’s becoming a de facto election battleground.

Already we’ve seen both the Government and the Opposition in a race to the bottom on welfare. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott delivers a new ‘plan’ or ‘package’ almost every day, which – in his own words – is designed to be ‘a test for government’. All up, it’s a rather ridiculous competition on which side can claim to be fiscally tougher, while challenging the other to fund various areas of Australian life.

Most of this, of course, is simple posturing. We have no details. Oh, the occasional figure gets waved around in a vague manner, but that figure is so hung about with caveats and ‘I’m not playing a rule in, rule out game’ that frankly, it might as well have been pulled out of a hat. For all we know, that’s exactly what’s going on.

None of this is new. It’s almost an article of faith that as Budget time approaches, this sort of dollar-based manoeuvring and points-scoring dominates the political discussion. But it is frustrating. Government money is public money, and our job is to wait and see what they want to do with it. Little wonder, then, that polls fluctuate wildly.

With that in mind, it’s time for The Conscience Vote to put up another Open Thread, and here are some thoughts to kick that off.

What do you want to see out of the Budget?

The government’s promised to keep to its self-imposed schedule to bring Australia back into surplus. Given the terrible disasters that struck earlier this year, and the massive cleanup bill, should they consider moving that date back rather than cutting too deeply into public funds?

Are there any areas that need more funds, not less?

Are there any areas that are already overfunded, in your opinion – and what should the government do about that?

Most of all – why do you think these things should happen?

Go wild. Make a wish list. This isn’t about crunching the numbers – it’s about what you think Australia needs, right now, regardless of what either Gillard or Abbott say.

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6 Responses to Open Thread – the Budget

  1. Alex Hughes says:

    I’d like to see significant reform to the public service. In Qld the Health department employs 3,000 officers who have no role, but the can’t be let go. Why the hell not? The Federal goverment must have similar issues.

    I don’t know how you’d change the culture of our public service though, although it’s clearly in desperate need of review. Realistic salaries would be good to see.

  2. Feral Skeleton says:

    I’m hoping that the government introduces more carrots than sticks in its mooted Welfare to Work package, along the lines of making subsidised on the job training available to the long-term unemployed who just don’t have the skills or experience to get a job in today’s job market. Also that it be skewed to those ‘older’ unemployed who have given up looking for work because they are de facto considered too old for a job by HR managers that are decades younger than they are.
    I am also hoping that the Private Health Insurance (Company) subsidy is severely curtailed and modified, or at the very least Means Tested.
    I hope that Anthony Albanese’s kite flying exercise a few weeks ago wrt the Second Sydney Airport also gets seed funding. After the Security debacle of a few days ago, and with Macquarie Airport’s monopoly, it’s about time this option was moved forward. šŸ™‚

  3. Rockstar Philosopher says:

    Isn’t there still income taxes in the pipeline? Seriously, when the GFC hit all promises for tax cuts should have been shelved.

    • As far as I know, tax cuts are still part of the budget.

      It’s become something of an article of faith that tax cuts are untouchable when a government seeks to cut its Budget. The mere suggestion – particularly when it comes to tax cuts for the top bracket of income earners – is tantamount to heresy, and usually brings loud screams.

      It would make sense to delay tax cuts – to actually try to create revenue rather than simply make the same amount of money (or even less) do more and more.

  4. Rhiannon Saxon says:

    We certainly need to stop obsessing about budget surplus-by-a-set-date.
    Cutting upper-middle-class welfare would be a good thing in my opinion, and NOT cutting the corporate tax rate. Reducing the rebates for health insurance and reducing the funding for private schools that charge above a certain level for fees.
    AND funding small, easily-managed, energy-efficient low-income housing. More funding more mental health and harm-minimisation programmes.
    Far more investment in R and D of renewables and a federal solar-hot-water-rebate that does not disappear in 2013. Just the energy saved by using solar hot water (which is a pretty efficient use of solar) would make a noticeable difference in household energy usage.
    More incentives for the manufacturing sector, especially value-adding from the resources sector.
    I have a cold. I can’t think of anything right now.

    • What do you mean by upper-middle-class welfare? Family Tax Benefit, Child Care Rebate and Baby Bonus, perhaps?

      Cutting private school funding is an extremely sensible measure – but isn’t going to happen. Despite the amazing disparity between the amount of public funds given to public and private schools, no government is going to suggest taking money away from private schools. Look at what happened when Latham tried targeting private schools – his so-called ‘hit list’ is still regarded as one of the worst policies in recent memory.

      Cutting funding to private schools would free up a considerable amount of revenue that could be used to build a first-class public school system. Theoretically, public schools are the provenance of governments. Unfortunately, governments seem to have forgotten that.

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