So once you get past the basic hypocrisy of this budget - some of the ideas contained in it don’t seem too horrendous.
Take the biggest ticket item, for example - the new tax on banks… a great way to raise revenue. Let’s give credit where credit is due. It’s bold… it’s smart… possibly politically difficult to have put forward… but it will help to solve some of the budget balance issues we are facing.
On the other hand - there’s the tax attack on low income families (the hike in the Medicare Levy)… the unfortunately complimentary tax break for those who already make the most (the reduction in the Budget Repair Levy)… and the added cost to anyone who might want to educate, or retrain themselves, past High School.
So... some good - some bad. Heading in the right direction? Perhaps. But still, some serious issues.
It’s better than the last few budgets from this government - but then again… that’s not a high bar to get over. And let’s not ignore the big issue.
We CAN do better this. We MUST do better. We can find many more innovative ways to raise revenue - and we can afford to spend more in areas that will transform Australia into the country it can be. We MUST find those ways. We MUST implement them. We owe it to everyone here now, everyone who wants to come here, and all the children who will inherit the legacy we leave behind.
The Big Issue
While there is some good news in this budget - unfortunately, none of it involves Arts funding.
Creativity? Innovation? Where is it?
Nowhere to be seen.
The cuts to Arts spending, that were made years ago, are still in effect. The Australia Council continues to be defunded. The ABC continues to be decimated to the point it can’t afford to fulfil its basic charter. The support for basic Australian content across all industries remains paltry. The development of small-to-medium companies across all Art forms remains non-existent.
It would take, comparatively, such small amounts in our overall budget to make an enormous difference - it is appalling that nothing has been done.
And this speaks directly to the biggest problem with this budget.
This is a nothing budget. While doing less damage than the measures in previous budgets might have… it does nothing to move us forward.
It lacks insight, forward-thinking or any of the innovative solutions that Malcolm Turnbull claims to be looking for.
The Australian people had already heard most of the news regarding changes to Education spending before Budget night - but let’s recap and reflect…
Obviously any news that spending on School Education will be increased is a positive announcement. And any evidence-based move to better, and more efficiently, target the schools that need it the most is even better.
But these measures simply don’t go far enough.
If this is as far as we can get, politically speaking, for now - then great. Heading in the right direction is always preferable to… the opposite. But let’s not be fooled by the idea this is all we can afford. Let’s not sell ourselves short with the idea that this is all we can do.
We have to, and The Arts Party will, maintain the pressure to ensure that all children are given the highest quality education available - with access to all creative, innovative and state-of-the-art educational theories and procedures at our disposal.
We owe nothing less to our children - and theirs.
As for changes to the loan system for Higher Education, and hikes in University Fees, we want to say nothing but “shame”.
We need more and better access to Higher Education, for all Australians - not less and worse. We need to get away from the small-minded and unfortunate idea that all Higher Education needs to “pay for itself” by having those who receive it "pay back the cost"… imagine if that were the approach taken to High School Education... if parents had to take out a loan (and pay it back) to pay for the total cost of their child’s Education at school.
Obviously, when one benefits from one’s Higher Education to the tune of $150,000 a year - or even $100,000 a year - paying back some of the cost of your University Education is perfectly reasonable - and warranted.
But when that University Education allows the recipient to do no more than make a basic $50,000 a year - should that person REALLY be required or expected to pay back the cost of their degree?
The research showing that every $1 spent on Higher Education reaps benefits to the overall economy in the range of $2 to $4 is vast. Any and all money spent on Educating the Australian people reaps rewards for everyone in Australia - regardless of whether the direct cost of that education is ever paid back… and we should be encouraging more and more people to train and educate themselves - not putting up barriers, making it harder, and discouraging them.
For years now, this government has done nothing but tell the story of the “looming budget crisis”. It has attempted to convince all Australians that there is “no revenue problem, only a spending problem”. And yet here we are… with higher spending and higher taxes.
Now… in essence, this isn't a problem (as long as it is targeted in a responsible and sustainable way)… none-the-less - even when one agrees with the final outcome - it’s nice to have the change of tack acknowledged.
On the night of the budget speech, Scott Morrison told Leigh Sales from the ABC they'd changed tack because they couldn’t get their previous approach (lower spending and lower taxes) past the Senate.
What a shame! It would be nice if the minister could have defended taxing the most highly profitable companies in the country, to pay for responsible increases in spending, by saying that it was a good idea - rather than something he was forced into.
Ah well - a good outcome is a good outcome, however you come by it.
Australia's five biggest banks will be hit with a new tax that the Government says will bring in $6.2 billion in the next four years.
They're also going to create the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, which will help resolve disputes between the banks and their customers. A new Banking Executive Accountability Regime also has some steep penalties for those caught breaking the rules.
All of these are welcome and sensible ways to improve the budget bottom line - and should be supported by all sides of politics. We're happy to see some sensible measures coming from the Government in these areas.
Let’s be clear. The hike in the Medicare Levy is an unfair and unfortunate way to solve a revenue problem.
Not only does it net the government less than one-fifth of the income the aforementioned tax on bank profits does - it is, in its nature, a regressive tax… a tax that disproportionately taxes those on lower incomes.
When you couple this with the reduction in tax for those on higher incomes… this is clearly an unfortunately idealistic tax change that, in total, takes from the poor and gives to the rich.
Granted - the lifting of the Medicare Rebate Freeze is a welcome move in the right direction... but that is simply the righting of a previous wrong, rather than a good idea in its own right.
Over the next couple of years The Arts Party will construct, promote and advocate for the ideas that will move this country from the comfortable and wealthy position we are lucky enough to find ourselves in - in to the innovative, dynamic, creative and happy nation we know we can be.
We hope you will come on that journey with us - and we look forward to travelling there with you.