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The real class war

By John Tomlinson - posted Monday, 9 May 2016

The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has accused the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, of engaging in class warfare. The basis of his accusation relates to comments Shorten made about tax breaks given to those earning above $80,000 a year and tax breaks to medium sized businesses and Labor's policy of restricting negative-gearing to those with existing negatively geared homes and continuing negative-gearing only to new homes in 2017.

The Prime Minister thinks that Bill Shorten is attacking aspiration, taking a wrecking ball to Liberal fiscal rectitude and is about to end civilisation, as we know it by not applauding Treasurer, Scott Morrison's "jobs and growth" budget.

A closer inspection of the 2016 budget might just reveal some infelicities of style. Perhaps even some significant shortcomings. There may even be some legitimate grounds to believe that the ghosts of ex-Treasurer, Joe Hockey's 2014 budget still reside in the Government's budget.


Just for starters.

The Government has retained most of the $80 billion cuts to health and education foreshadowed in Hockey's budget. It has come up with $1.3 billion to partially fund the proposed Gonski school reforms.

It has extended by a further two years the freeze to the GP rebate for bulk-billed consultations. This will, as Professor Brian Owler, President of the Australian Medical Association says, cause many General Medical Practices to cease bulk-billing and thereby harm the health of those who are poor and/or chronically ill.

The 2014 Hockey Budget had large tax cuts for the wealthy and small tax cuts for those who are struggling. The 2016 Budget has tax cuts for those earning over $80,000 annually and nothing for those earning less than that.

There are cuts for some families earning less than $80,000 but they are not tax cuts – they are cuts to family payments. The Labor website notes that:

  • Individuals who earn the most will get a double tax cut – someone on $1,000,000 will get a $16,715 tax cut tonight while three quarters of Australian taxpayers receive absolutely nothing.
  • A couple with a single income of $65,000 with three children in primary school are $3,034 worse off a year – and receive no tax cuts.
  • A single mother with an income of $87,000 with two children in high school is $4,463 worse off per year as a result of tonight's Budget.

By any measure such disparities in the treatment of low income earners and the well-off cannot be described as equitable, just, fair, even-handed, egalitarian or deserved. Nor would such unequal treatment be considered conscionable, fitting or without prejudice. Clearly Morrison is rewarding those most likely to donate to the coffers of the Liberal Party.

There are words that could adequately describe Morrison's budget treatment of the big end of town and the battlers. The words that first come to mind are invidious, self-serving, improper, egregious, distasteful and, dare I say it, unjust.

The budget throws billions at the contractors charged with running the concentration camps that the government incorrectly calls the "Pacific Solution". The refugees and asylum seekers incarcerated in these hellholes are slowly but surely being driven mad. Two people detained on Nauru have self-immolated in recent days. One died and as I write the other is struggling for her life. While Dutton without a shred of evidence claims it is not the situation that the refugees find themselves in that is causing them to self-harm but the urging of asylum seeker advocates. These camps are not peaceful and they are not a solution. The Australian Broadcasting Commission's program "The Minefield" explored this tragedy in an insightful way on the 5th of May 2016.

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About the Author

Dr John Tomlison is a visiting scholar at QUT.

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