Tuesday, 1 May 2018

One doesn't have to look very hard to see where Turnbull & Co's budgetary spending money is coming from

Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison is waxing lyrical about the state of government finances ahead of next week's 2017-18 Budget announcements. 

Tax cuts for low and middle income earners, company tax cuts, increased infrastructure spending and no increase in the Medicare Levy - all on the back of increased taxation revenue.

But that is not quite the whole truth. The Abbott and Turnbull governments have been steadily reducing the safety-net income and living conditions of welfare recipients for years in order to increase the budget bottom line.

It has been reported Scott Morrison has found over $8 billion in savings in the forthcoming Budget and one can guess where a significant portion of those 'savings' have been found given past history.

A walk down memory lane.......

Exhibit One

The 2014­–15 Budget proposes to change indexation arrangements for the Age Pension, veterans’ pensions, Carer Payment, Disability Support Pension and Parenting Payment (Single) so that payment rates are only adjusted by movements in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The measure will save $449.0 million over five years…

The budget savings from this measure arise from lower growth in the rate of payment provided to pensioners. Effectively, pensioners will receive a lower payment over time than they would have had the indexation method not been changed. Lower payments also affect the impact of the pension means test with less people likely to qualify for a payment under the income and assets test over time…

The Government estimates that $1.5 billion will be saved over four years through a freeze on the income and asset test threshold for all Australian Government payments. The thresholds for Family Tax Benefit, Child Care Benefit, Child Care Rebate, Newstart Allowance, Parenting Payment (Single and Partnered) and Youth Allowance will not be subject to annual CPI indexation for three years from 1 July 2014…

A further change to the pension means test, lowering the deeming thresholds, will accrue minor savings of $32.7 million for one year of operation (in 2017–18) but significant savings in the years beyond the forward estimates.....

Exhibit Two

The Australian, 5 December 2016:

The Turnbull government is ramping up efforts to claw back $4 billion believed to have been ­incorrectly paid to welfare recipients, issuing debt notices worth $4.5 million every day in a bid to rein in the ballooning welfare bill.

The Australian has learned a new automated system that matches a welfare recipient’s ­details with information from the Australian Taxation Office is generating 20,000 “compliance interventions” a week, up from 20,000 a year before the crackdown came into effect in July.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge said the new system, which is expected to generate 1.7 million compliance notices to welfare recipients over the next three years, was helping to meet the government’s debt recovery targets.
“Our aim is to ensure that ­people get what they are entitled to — no more and no less. And to crack down hard when people ­deliberately defraud the system,” he told The Australian…..

In the 2015-16 budget and midyear budget update, the government estimated $4bn in welfare benefit overpayments were likely between 2010 and 2018. Budget papers forecast that the government will achieve savings of $1.7bn over five years through debt recovery….

In March 2015 the Reserve Bank cut its cash rate and cut it twice more by December 2016 and the big banks had followed suit. However, the Turnbull Government cut deeming rates for pensioners once only. The base deeming rate continues to date at 1.75% while CBA pensioner security account interest ranges from 0.50% to 1.10% for a good many age pensioners - giving the government a sly and petty saving over time.

Exhibit Three

In 2017 the waiting period for new claimants of New Start AllowanceYouth Allowance and Special Benefit was increased to a minimum of four weeks for those aged under 25 years and Youth Allowance age eligibility restricted in a  federal government omnibus bill.

This bill also applied further eligibility restrictions to Family Tax Benefit payments, removed the pensioner education supplement,  the annual education entry payment assisting with education expenses for eligible recipients, and and the requirement for employers to provide Government-funded parental leave pay to their eligible long-term employees and other measures. 

Total savings were est. $2.37 billion over six years.

The Department of Social Services has confirmed about 86,600 part-rate age pensioners had their pension cancelled as a result of the assets test changes that came into effect on January 1, 2017

Exhibit Four

In the 2016-17 financial year previous changes to the Disability Support Pension resulted in est. $1.5 billion in government savings. Further savings are expected in projections out to 2027-28.

The Guardian, 27 April 2018:

The federal government has created a “false economy” by restoring the budget bottom line through cuts to the disability support pension and potentially pushing more people into homelessness, a leading economist has said.

Speaking at a budget preview forum hosted by Industry Super Australia in Melbourne on Thursday, the Industry Super chief economist, Stephen Anthony, said the federal budget position had improved due to business receipts and cuts to personal benefit payments, particularly the disability support pension.

“The problem here of course is we’re seeing this spill out on to our streets in terms of homelessness,” Anthony said. “I’d say there’s a bit of a false economy occurring there and I’d ask the tax office to consider the models that they’re using and their reliability because the flipside of what they’re doing is causing a lot of social damage and social harm.”

The Turnbull government has tightened the eligibility criteria for the disability support pension, which the Australian Council of Social Services (Acoss) says resulted in a 63% drop in successful claims for the the pension between 2010 and 20116.

People who are not successful in claiming the disability support pension but are still unable to work have been pushed on to unemployment benefit Newstart, which pays $170 less per week…..

He said even a modest surplus was dependent on the government resisting the temptation to spend money in what is likely to be the last budget before the next federal election, saying “we don’t want to see tax cuts … we need tax reform, not necessarily tax cuts”.

The treasurer, Scott Morrison, this week announced he had scrapped a planned $8.2bn increase to the Medicare levy to fund the national disability insurance scheme, saying strong economic growth in the past 18 months meant it was no longer necessary.

The government has also telegraphed a personal income tax cut to address cost-of-living pressures in an environment of stagnant wage growth.

Anthony said the current budget parametres anticipate that annual wages growth will return to more than 3%, a projection that he said is unlikely to be met.

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