Commission of Audit hits those who are most vulnerable

May 1, 2014

The government’s Commission of Audit report was finally released today. It’s over 500 pages long, but already it’s proving to be targeted at those who can least afford it.

These are just some of the recommendations:


Aged pension eligibility to be raised to 70 years old.

Pension eligibility criteria to be tightened.

The family home to be counted as an asset in means testing.

Pension payments to be gradually reduced to 28% of average weekly earnings.

Carer’s Allowance to be means tested.


NDIS rollout to be ‘slowed’.

GP visits to cost $15 in ‘co-payment’.

Those who turn up at an Emergency Department whose situations are deemed ‘less urgent’ to be forced to make a co-payment.

Everyone to pay more for medicines, including those currently listed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. This includes medicines that are currently free.

In a rare recommendation not aimed at the poorest and most in need in Australian society, high income earners would be required to take out private health insurance in order to access Medicare. The Commission also recommended a 2% increase in the Medicare Levy surcharge to encourage the shift to private health insurance.


Payments to young job seekers to be cut after 12 months.

Job-seekers between 22 and 30 be forced to relocate to take a job after 12 months, or lose benefits.


Gonski reformed to be scrapped.

States to have full control of schools.

Higher education to cost more.

Students to start paying back their FEE-HELP debt earlier.


The Commission recommended the Paid Parental Leave Scheme salary cap be scaled back to $57,000 per year.

Family Tax Benefit B to be abolished.

A new FTB A ‘supplement’ to be available to sole parents with children under 8 years of age.


More road tolls.

Industry assistance, including to the car industry, to be slashed.

Seven Commonwealth bodies to be scrapped, including the Climate Change Authority and Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Over 60 other departments to be merged; for example, Border Protection with Customs.

The Snowy-Hydro scheme, the Australian Submarine Corporation, Defence Housing, Australian Rail Track Corporation, Australia Post, Medibank, the Royal Mint and the National Broadband Network to be sold off over time.

The Commission estimates this will mean that 15,000 fewer public servants will be needed, especially in Canberra.

New targets for funding the ABC and SBS, while the Australian Broadcasting Network would be abolished.

The minimum wage case to be abolished, with a new benchmark of 44% of average weekly earnings.

It takes no special knowledge whatsoever to see that this report is a nightmare. It targets the weakest, poorest, least able to adapt to extreme changes in their fiscal circumstances. Now, Treasurer Joe Hockey has been at pains to stress that this is a report, not the Budget, but he’s not ruling anything out, either. Some of these recommendations have already been signalled as ‘under consideration’.

Take an ‘average’ family – one parent works, making about the average weekly age. The other parent stays at home with the kids, who are 14 and 10 respectively. If the Commission’s recommendations are adopted, they’ve just lost Family Tax Benefit B. They’re probably paying higher fees to send their kids to government schools than they were even one year ago. If the kids get sick, they not only have to find the money to see the doctor, but also the money to pay for whatever gets prescribed.

How about someone approaching 65, and thinking about retirement? Their superannuation funds aren’t great, because they’ve never had a high earning job. They won’t be able to even try for the pension for five more years, and even then there’s no guarantee. You see, they own their home, which they’ve paid off over decades. Thanks to gentrification in the area, it’s probably worth a fair bit now – almost certainly enough to exclude them from the pension.

Or someone leaving high school, wanting to go to university? Well, they’d have to pay more for their degrees, but hey, there’s always FEE-HELP, right? Except that debt will be higher, and they’ll have to start paying it back much sooner. They could always go on the job market and try to save money, but if they have trouble getting a job, they might well find themselves forced to move anywhere the government deems fit, or else be back where they started with no means of support.

Even a single, able-bodied, employed person doesn’t get off scott-free. They’ll be mostly okay – as long as they don’t get sick, require regular (or even semi-regular) GP visits and medicines, lose their job, drive to work, sign up for the NBN … you get the picture.

Amazingly, the government would like us to believe that this is all necessary. It’s all the previous administration’s fault, of course. The message is clear and consistent: the Coalition don’t want to do this, but they must. Why? Because, in Hockey’s words, ‘What this report proves is that we have inherited a mess’.

Really, Mr Hockey? Are pensioners out in the streets desperately trying to make their terrible circumstances known, as they are in Greece? Is our inflation rate at almost 60%, as it is in Venezuela? Is our debt as a percentage of GDP at 230%, as it is in Japan?

The short answer is NO. They’re not.

Our inflation rate is 2.9%.

Our debt as a percentage of GDP is 28$.

Yes, we have a deficit. Yes, if a completely unforeseen disaster happened right now, we would need to borrow more money to combat that. But that deficit came about as a result of spending designed to cushion us from the impact of the Global Financial Crisis. It was strategy – and it worked.

The government would have us believe this was ‘wasteful’. They prattle about pink batts and school halls, and just about turn themselves inside out trying to obscure the real effect of the Rudd and Gillard governments’ spending initiatives.

And yet the Coalition decided to increase the deficit by $8 billion ‘just in case’.

And yet the Coalition decided to spend $24 billion on buying Joint Strike Fighters in a highly questionable business deal.

The same people who even now wring their hands and all but confirm that their sights are squarely trained on the most vulnerable of us.

Hockey says the Commission’s recommendations are ‘courageous’.

No, Mr Hockey. What would be courageous would be your government refusing to kick people when they’re already down.

But what are the chances of that?

Guess it’s over to you, Labor, Greens, PUP. Anybody? Anybody?


Open Letter to Jenny Macklin

January 2, 2013

Dear Ms Macklin,

I understand that being the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs in the Second Gillard government as well as the Federal Member for Jaga Jaga must be an incredibly difficult job. You have to participate in government debates and voting, wade through all that paperwork, open community centres, hold press conferences, and who knows what else. Then there’s all that travel – whew! All those demands on your time must be terrible.

So I can understand why you wouldn’t necessarily be sympathetic to those who are about to be booted off their sole parent pensions and onto Newstart. If you have to work, so should they – and they should stop whining about not having enough money to pay for all their little extras. Right? If they can’t stretch $35 a day to cover their costs, either they need to learn how to budget, or just get a job.

It’s great to see you leading the way on this, too. When our leaders set an example, it always makes me proud to be an Australian. You might want to talk to the people who issue your transcripts, though. Somehow your assertive statement that you could live on the dole got lost in the works. You should really work to find it – stand up for your beliefs!

It seems to me that you’ve unfairly come under fire lately, what with that ‘extreme Greens’ fellow, Mr Bandt issuing that absurd challenge. Fancy him claiming you couldn’t live on $245 a week. I’m sure you’d have no trouble cutting down from your current $6321 – and you could easily do without your travel allowance, accommodation allowance, electoral allowance and all the rest.

It’s all about tightening the belt, as I’m sure you know. Why, my friend @theriverfed and I were talking about this just today, and she was very much of the same mind. In fact, she came up with a little list that you might find useful. Perhaps your office would like to distribute it to those single parents who’ll be ringing you up in the weeks to come.

How to be a Single Parent on Newstart Allowance

1. Live somewhere really cheap. Get used to it being socially isolating, with bad public transport. It’s affordable. Estimate about 75% of your income = rent.

2. Use your $15 petrol/public transport allowance getting to half a dozen different shops to get cheapest the food possible, non-bulk (since you certainly can’t afford either a chest freezer or bulk food prices).

3. Never, ever go anywhere for social purposes. Even if you don’t need to buy a coffee, you can’t afford to get there.

4. Be really grateful that your sister pays for you to have a telephone and your mother buys your child shoes, if you are lucky.

5. In winter, when the park is out of the question, act like going to the play area at Bunnings is a really fun treat for the kids. Add a $2.50 snag? Luxury.

6. Forget about replacing stuff that breaks. Never going to happen. Even if it was a necessary thing.

7. Learn to live with paying bills late.

8. Get really, really stingy. Like counting squares of toilet paper stingy.

9. Get over the shame of buying stuff with 5 and 10 cent pieces. And learn to love Home Brand everything.

10. Learn to cut hair, make your own bread, and just eat whatever your child leaves on his plate.

11. Finally, try really, really hard to avoid depression. Chances are you won’t succeed and all access to support has
disappeared. But Lifeline is still free.

So in conclusion, Ms Macklin, I hope you will be encouraged to continue your campaign to shake single parents out of their complacent, easy lives. It’s about time we saw some tough love.

Oh, and Ms Macklin? Do get back to the Australian people when you’ve given up all your benefits, blocked access to your savings, bought a public transport card and restricted yourself to $245 per week for a few months. Perhaps you could borrow some children as well. I, for one, wait breathlessly to hear how easily you managed your extravagant new income to pay rent, childcare, school fees, utility bills, groceries, transport, etc.

It’ll be a real lesson, I’m sure.


The Conscience Vote

(Credit goes to @theriverfed for her marvellous 11-point list.)

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