... would be more than some election sweeteners ...
The Federal Budget is a mixed bag. It’s good to see a better deal for Tasmania, such as the funding finally being forthcoming for the new Bridgewater Bridge which will better connect Denison to the rest of the State. The second $60m instalment for the freight rail revitalisation project is also welcome, as is the $400m Tasmanian roads package.
But there’s a disappointing lack of funding for necessary infrastructure like a northern suburbs light rail, UTas’s proposed STEM project, or improvements to the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme, and seemingly no progress towards a Hobart City Deal.
The Government needs to understand that a better deal for Tasmania goes beyond just transport. It’s disappointing that there was effectively no boost for science and research in Hobart including reversing the devastating cuts to the CSIRO and the Australian Antarctic Division. And there are virtually no targeted measures to ease pressure on housing affordability in Tasmania such as waiving the State’s housing debt and additional funds for more crisis and supported accommodation.
The Budget also needs to deliver a better deal for everyday Australians, especially those who are disadvantaged or need government support. To that end it’s good to see an increase in aged care funding, although the 14,000 new home care packages are well short of the 100,000 that are required. And health, and in particular mental, primary and allied health care remains chronically underfunded, despite some small boosts including for hospitals.
The Budget should also have included real reform to government pensions and payments, including lifting Newstart and related payments including Youth Allowance, Austudy and Abstudy by $75 a week. It should also have reversed the billions of dollars in cuts to tertiary education and properly funded schools with the $6.5bn a year that David Gonski originally recommended. Foreign aid continues to be used like an ATM.
What this Budget does instead is again go after some of the most vulnerable in the community. For example the Government appears to be expanding its disastrous Centrelink robo-debt program and introducing other unreasonable debt-recovery measures. Also migrants and refugees will wait even longer to access social security.
The Budget is also a chance to lay down a clear and coherent pathway for how we are going to pay for all this. That’s why it was disappointing that the Government did not abandon its proposed corporate tax cuts, and did not introduce measures like a super profits tax to raise revenue, nor tax reform on property investments. This Budget was also a missed opportunity to rein in wasteful spending like the increased defence expenditure and the money spent on offshore processing.
While there are some things to celebrate in this Budget including for Tasmania, overall it misses the mark when it comes to looking after those who need it, and when it comes to offering a clear and coherent plan for the future.
*Andrew Wilkie is the Independent Member for Denison in the House of Representatives
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