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Hypocrisy over carers

By Peter Martin - posted Thursday, 13 March 2008

Spare me the sob stories. I used to work in television. I know how it’s done. First you find someone in need who is going go “suffer” as a result of a government “decision” - in this case Labor’s apparently heartless move to axe the $1,600 a year carers’ bonus. Then you get that person to describe the genuinely troubling circumstances in which they live, then you get the Opposition to pile on.

Like this:

For God’s sake Mr Rudd, please rule out an attack on Australia’s carers. These are the saints in Australian society. They’re the people that pick up the load when governments and non-government organisations fail.


That’s the Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson.

How about:

I accept that it is important to maintain the fight against inflation. But the idea that carers, who are some of the most vulnerable people in this country, should be front and centre in the fight against inflation is just wrong. And for the government to say ‘we need an even bigger surplus, therefore we are cutting bonuses to carers’ is using carers as human shields in the war against inflation.

That's from the Coalition’s former Minister for Industrial Relations Tony Abbott.

Never mind that the entire premise is wrong and that it is the Opposition (and arguably the media) who have been using carers as human shields ...

The report that broke the story in The Australian last Friday was wrongly headed “Razor gang slices out compassion as carer bonus slashed”. It began: “Labor will scrap annual bonuses of $1600 paid to carers as its budget razor gang carves deep into welfare.”


The razor gang, otherwise known as the Expenditure Review Committee, was never going to slash a carers’ bonus. There wasn’t a carers’ bonus to slash. Not only was it not in the forward estimates - the previous government never budgeted for it continue - it wasn’t even in the budget for the financial year that we are currently in.

How could that be? The previous Treasurer Peter Costello gave the game away when he announced in last May’s budget that, as in the previous three budgets, the bonus would be paid by June 30. That’s right, June 30, 2007 - an odd date for a payment that was announced in the 2007-08 budget.

The purpose of the payment, dare I say it, was not so much to support carers as to find somewhere to stash what looked like being an embarrassingly big surplus for the financial year about to end that would otherwise go into the Future Fund and be unavailable for electoral bribery.

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First published at Peter Martin’s blog on March 11, 2008.

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About the Author

Peter Martin is the Economics Editor of The Canberra Times. He also writes about economics for New Matilda and is heard on NightLife on ABC Radio. He is a former Economics Correspondent for Australia's ABC radio and SBS television. His blog is here.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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