Showing posts with label 2017-18 Budget. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2017-18 Budget. Show all posts

Monday, 22 May 2017

A gender lens on the 2017-18 Budget exposes its class-ridden, misogynistic bottom line

In 2014 the Abbott Government ceased the thirty year-old federal government practice of releasing a Women's Budget Statement.

The National Foundation for Australian Women stepped in to fill the gap since then and this month has released its 97-page review of the Turnbull Government’s 2017-18 Budget, Gender lens on the Budget.

This budget review contains little that is unequivocally positive for women and summarises the bad news thus:

Women are overrepresented at lower income levels. Changes to government benefits and increases in taxes have a disproportionate effect on women. ATO statistics recently released show the median income for women was $47,125 in 2014-15, while for men the amount was $61,711.
Effective marginal taxation rates (EMTRs) measure the proportion of each extra dollar of earnings that is lost to both income tax increases and decreases in government benefits (for example, Parenting Payment, Family Tax Benefit, the Age Pension etc).
The increase in the Medicare Levy will affect those on incomes greater than $21,644. For those with eligible children, FTB A payment rates are frozen for two years. Those who pay child care fees will continue to face high EMTRs. University graduates will start repaying loans when they reach income levels of $42,000 per year.
These changes hit those on earning well below the average wage, and are particularly harsh for women. Combined, these changes could lead to effective marginal tax rates of possibly 100% or higher for some women, particularly as Family Tax Benefit Part A begins to decrease at $51,903. Graduates caught between these policies will experience considerable financial stress; graduates earning $51,000, most of whom are likely to be women, will have less disposable income than someone earning $32,000. Changes to penalty rates may also have a significant impact on some graduates if they are extended to the aged and health care sectors as well as the childcare sector.
The point to note is not just the harsh effects on low income women but also that it is not discussed in the Budget papers, with no modelling of the exact EMTRs for different groups of women provided. The way to improve incomes for most women is not to cut taxes but through improved welfare, social investments and increased wages (for example, by taking real action against the spread of precarious low paid work or by opposing cuts to penalty rates). Tax cuts, particularly those for top income earners, lower revenue at a time when investment is needed in public services and social infrastructure. ATO statistics show that in 2013-14 only 17% of women had taxable incomes greater than $80,000. This tax reduction has led to an increase in gender inequality.
Welfare payments to the unemployed are a small part of total welfare outlays. However, as ACOSS points out, the 2014 demonising of recipients continues. Many groups argue for an increase in the value of the Newstart payment, and an increase in Commonwealth rent assistance. What we have instead is ineffectual drug testing, harsh compliance penalties and expanded income management. However, for sole parents there will be a new verification process that is especially demeaning.
There were no measures designed to specifically address gender inequality and the related entrenched financial vulnerability of women….
This Budget fails to address major challenges facing young women in Australia, and has no measures to improve financial, job or housing security for this cohort.
Youth unemployment is at 13.5% of the youth labour force, which is the highest rate in 40 years, and many young people are underemployed (18% of young people in the labour force) (Brotherhood of St Laurence, 2017, 3). Women aged 20-24 have a much higher rate of underemployment than men of the same age (Burgess, 2017). The job market is increasingly casualised and insecure, and as young people have little or no working experience they are more likely than other groups to work in nonpermanent jobs (Brotherhood of St Laurence, 2017, 4). There is nothing in this Budget to address the unemployment or underemployment that young people experience, and which have implications for the economic security of young women…..
The enhanced residency requirements for claimants of the Age Pension and the Disability Support Pension (DSP) from 1 July 2018 will require claimants to have 15 years of continuous Australian residence before being eligible to receive the Age Pension or DSP unless they have:
* 10 years’ continuous Australian residence, with five years of this residence being during their working life (16 years to Age Pension age); or
* 10 years’ continuous Australian residence, without having received an activity tested income support payment for a cumulative period of five years.
Approximately 40% of older Australians are born overseas and the majority of these are women (AIHW 2007, 4). Within CALD communities, as with the broader population, women are more likely to require age pension support because they have less superannuation (from lower paid jobs and from fewer years working). Women are therefore more vulnerable to economic insecurity and should not be punished in old age for being migrants or for not being able to meet the 5 cumulative years of no income support payments during the requisite 15 years’ continuous residency. CALD women are more likely to experience periods of income support due to their family care responsibilities and should not be punished for this.  [my yellow/red highlighting]

The Turnbull Government has been offering half-truths to voters once gain

In its 2017-18 Budget the Turnbull Government announced it would commence the phased re-introduction of Medicare Benefits Schedule rebates indexation.

Treasurer and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison stated in his Budget Night speech that “We are lifting the freeze on the indexation of the Medicare Benefits Schedule. We are also reversing the removal of the bulk-billing incentive for diagnostic imaging and pathology services and the increase in the PBS co-payment and related changes.”

It now appears that it was premature to expect that out-of-pocket expenses for a number of radiology and diagnostic imaging services might be contained after the rebate freeze was lifted for these services in three years time.

The Medicare rebate thaw will not apply to 93 per cent of scans, including the X-rays, MRIs and ultrasounds used to diagnose some of the most common forms of cancer.

Health Minister Greg Hunt's staged four-year thaw has been widely welcomed by doctors' groups such as the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian College of GPs. Under the plan, indexation will gradually be reapplied to bulk-billing incentives, visits to the doctor and allied health services.

On budget night, the Turnbull government said the final stage of the thaw, due in July 2020, would lift the freeze on "targeted" radiology and diagnostic imaging services - the first indexation since 2004.

Prime Minister Turnbull puts pressure on the Senate to back the increase to the Medicare levy after the release of two new opinion polls. Vision courtesy Seven News Melbourne.

But new Department of Health figures reveal precisely how "targeted" the changes will be: the freeze will be lifted on 59 of the 891 radiology items listed on the Medicare Benefits Schedule - just 7 per cent.

While mammograms and a number of CT scans will be indexed under the plan, X-rays, MRIs, PETs and ultrasounds for such common conditions as brain, lung, breast and ovarian cancer will not. The rebate on common scans for arthritis and nuclear medicine will also remain frozen. [my yellow highlighting]

As for the promised reversing of the increase in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), this is only the potential for a flow-on effect from other changes in the PBS and is in no way guaranteed to occur.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

What on earth has Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison been inhaling?

Australian Treasurer and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison displaying his disconnect from reality…..

The Guardian, 11 May 2017:

Scott Morrison’s plan to test wastewater to identify welfare recipients on drugs will only highlight the high levels of drug use among professionals working in “the finer leafy suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney”, an expert on the Victorian government’s ice action taskforce, John Ryan, has said.

Ryan, who is also chief executive of the not-for-profit drug research organisation the Penington Institute, also accused the treasurer of implementing “a new regime of big brother”.

Ryan was responding to Morrison’s comments during an interview with BuzzFeed on Thursday morning that areas of high drug use were “the best place to start” trials of drug testing for 5,000 Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients. Those welfare recipients with positive drug test results will be forced on to cashless welfare cards restricting cash withdrawals and barring the purchase of certain products.

Sewage testing of chemical compounds in raw wastewater is used by scientists and researchers to estimate the consumption and prevalence of drug use in cities and towns. This chemical analysis can also point to a population’s health and lifestyle habits, and can indicate changing drug trends over time of the population connected to the sewer system.

But Ryan said what the testing could not accurately pinpoint was how many people were using.

“It is not laser accurate when it comes to how many people are using as there are too many assumptions in the model,” Ryan said.

“It is not yet developed to the stage where you can identify a high number of users in a community. You can more likely predict how many standard doses of a drug have been taken, which is very different to how many people and which people are using. Some drug users might use once every four hours, some might use once every four months.”

He said a high number of working professionals used drugs.

“It might misfire if the government think they can rely on some chemical test of wastewater as we know drug use is expensive and more common drugs such as cannabis are consumed by people in the workforce,” he said.

“Using the wastewater approach, they will find high amounts in the wastewater of the finer leafy suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney.

The Penington Institute has warned the government that targeting welfare recipients with drug testing will see an increase in crime and homelessness among Australia’s most vulnerable people.

People on welfare who were using drugs had complex mental health needs and to risk their welfare because they were using drugs of dependence was not an appropriate response, Ryan said.

“We don’t need wastewater analysis to identify what everyone in the drug treatment sector knows,” Ryan said.
“The treasurer could talk to doctors, he could look at drug and mental health treatment waiting lists, it shouldn’t be hard to identify where people are desperate and in need.”

Then there is this exercise in cuckoo land thinking…….

Dept. of Social Security, Welfare Reform 2017 Budget, 10 May 2017:

Job seekers aged 55-59 years

Currently, recipients are excused from worksearch if they satisfy their requirements through volunteering. From 20 September 2018, recipients will only be able to meet half (15 hours) of their annual activity requirement of 30 hours per fortnight through volunteering— flexibility will exist for some recipients in areas of high unemployment.

Job seekers aged 60 years to Age Pension age

Currently, recipients over 60 currently have no annual activity requirements. From 20 September 2018, recipients will have 10 hours of annual activity requirements per fortnight which they will be able to meet through volunteering.

In the Clarence Valley on the NSW Far North Coast (ABS June 2016 est. population 51,211) at least an est. 40 per cent of the total population is 50 years of age and over – with est. 8 per cent being between 55 years and 59 years of age and est. 15 per cent  being between 60 years old and retirement age.

In the small town (catchment est. 6,337 persons) where I live an est. 55 per cent of the local population is 50 years of age and older – with est. 7 per cent being between 55 years and 59 years of age and est. 18 per cent being between 60 years old and retirement age.

In 2017 the unemployment rate in the statistical region covering the Clarence Valley was the highest in the state and, the seniors unemployment rate ranges from est. 11 to 20 per cent in many valley towns.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2015 there were only 3,809 businesses recorded in the Clarence Valley and not all of these employed staff. There are few employment opportunities advertised and there appears to be no lack of existing volunteers to fill unpaid positions in the community.

When it comes to any national index of relative socio-economic advantage and disadvantage the valley probably still ranks around 2 out of a possible 10, which is a good indication that many of the over 19,000 households - approx. 28 per cent of which are probably lone person households - will have insufficient resources to weather any reduction in existing household income. 

So with few paid employment or volunteer opportunities which would meet the mandatory 10 to 30 hours of mutual obligation activity a fortnight, limited ‘public’ transport to get to any of these scarce positions and so many people facing a fight to find the required hours every week or lose their Centrelink Jobseeker benefit in 2018 – a veritable social and economic train wreck is likely to occur here come September next year.

For that we will have every Liberal and Nationals federal senator and MP to thank, because not even Morrison would have been this heartless without encouragement from the ranks.

Scott Morrison, 9 May 2017, being congratulated by Coalition MPs

Thursday, 11 May 2017

If Turnbull, Morrison and Cormann were expecting high praise for Budget 2017 from ordinary folk they are bound to be disappointed

With perhaps the exception of those big banks, the business community does not appear too unhappy with the Turnbull Government’s latest budget provisions, however letters sections in newspapers yesterday tell a different story when it comes to the average voter……

Surplus? Tell 'em they're dreaming

Based on nine years of irrefutable data, one can confidently make the following predictions after seeing Scott Morrison's budget.
There will be no surplus in 2020/21 or thereafter, and debt will just keep growing. Treasury has yet again overestimated government revenue, underestimated expenditure, continuing a remarkably long run of consistently getting it wrong.
The tragedy is that they, and their political masters, don't seem to learn anything, persisting with flawed models, theories and policies, that promise much but deliver the opposite.
Wayne Swan set the standard with his promise that deficits would end in 2012/13. Scott Morrison has just raised the bar.

Mark Engelbrecht Floreat, WA 

The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 May 2017, p.18:

PM's talk of fairness fails global shame test
The Prime Minister speaks of "fairness, opportunity and security" but the Australian government is continuing its selective vision of entitlement. It is not just that cutting aid adds to the push factors for refugees, it is the maintenance of a philosophy that the haves will grasp ever more tightly to protect their lifestyle at the expense of those who have nothing. The failure of successive Australian governments to meet their millennium goal commitments is yet another in the list of shameful failures by our nation to act as a responsible global citizen.
Philip Cooney Wentworth Falls
Liberals will always be cheaper: Looks like this might be the only believable claim from ScoMo and Turnbull, cheap, not cheerful and false economy. Are all options really on the table? Must health, education, pensions, welfare, housing affordability really be sacrificed, to prioritise keeping the pedlars of spies, submarines and jet fighters in the style to which they're accustomed? Their plans, values and fundamental morality sure is cheap.
Bernie McComb Phillip Island (Vic)

The Daily Telegraph, 10 May 2017, p.20:

Pay off all debt and be frugal
The federal Budget has been presented and everyone is asking, "What's in it for me?" The invisible elephant in the room is asking, "Where is the money coming from?" We are already on the road to owing half a trillion dollars, paying more than a billion dollars a month in interest alone. We are going to lumber our children with the sins of today and turn this great country into a third world nation, just so our current crop of politicians can appease as many voters as they need to stay in power. While there are a great many of wonderful ideas that need funding, can we afford them now? It is time we reined in expenditure, cut back on bloated bureaucracy and consultants, and tell politicians they need to live more frugally. The Titanic, too, was doing quite well until it shook hands with the iceberg.
Jim Stamell, Sylvania
Be fair towards the less privileged in society
Scott Morrison wants to bash the unemployed (again) while striving to achieve "fairness" in the Budget ("No licence to skive", 9/5).
Instead of finding more cruel and unusual ways to punish the unemployed, why doesn't he show true fairness and increase the Newstart Allowance from its current $35 a day -- a rate that hasn't changed since 1990 -- to a rate where a human being in Sydney can actually use it to survive rather than be way under the poverty line? All stick and no carrot is absolutely not fair.
Alex, Woy Woy

The Twitterverse is also less than enthusiastic……

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Morning After: a brief look at Turnbull Government's Budget 2017-18

ABC News, 9 May 2017:
* Most taxpayers will soon be paying more tax. The Medicare Levy is set to increase by 0.5 percentage points — from 2 to 2.5 per cent of taxable income — to help fund the $22 billion National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and avoid future budget black holes.
If it's passed by Parliament, the change will kick in on July 1, 2019.
* Welfare payments are being consolidated and some new welfare recipients will be subject to random drug testing. People deemed to be at risk of substance abuse will be required to undertake random saliva, urine or hair follicle tests for drugs in three locations from next year. Jobseekers who test positive to drugs will have their payments quarantined. About 450 people each year will be blocked from claiming the Disability Support Pension on the basis of drug and alcohol abuse alone.
Newstart and Sickness Allowance recipients will be moved to the new JobSeeker Payment, which pays the same. Jobseekers aged up to 49 will now have to undertake 50 hours of approved activity a fortnight. There will also be longer waiting periods for those with liquid assets.
The Cashless debit card will be introduced in two new locations.
* Older people on welfare will lose out — the over-60s will now have to complete 10 hours of approved activity a fortnight, which can include volunteering.

* Superannuants, as the major shareholders in banks, could bear the brunt of the new levy faced by the five biggest financial institutions. Economists say any reduction in the banks' profits will ultimately impact the share price and therefore the banks' shareholders.

* University fees are on the rise. Students will have to pay an extra $2,000 to $3,600 for a four-year course. That's a fee increase of 1.8 per cent next year, and 7.5 per cent by 2022.
The income level at which you will have to start repaying your HECS debt will also be reduced. Currently, you only have to repay your debt when you earn over $55,000. From July next year, you'll have to repay it once you hit $42,000.
Universities are also facing a 2.5 per cent efficiency dividend. The only win for university students is the introduction of Commonwealth Supported Places in sub-bachelor programs like diplomas.
* People who use roll-your-own tobacco or smoke cigars might feel some pain after the budget. Those products are set to be taxed more, bringing them into line with the tax rates on cigarettes.
In addition, elsewhere the mainstream media reports:
* Negative gearing remains, a measure which allows investors such a large share of the housing market and which drives up housing costs. As lip service to community anger it will now disallow deductions for travel expenses related to inspecting, maintaining or collecting rent for residential rental property.
* Universities face a funding cut of est. $2.5 billion due to efficiency dividends.
* The national affordable housing agreement that provides $1.3 billion a year to the states and territories will be replaced with a new set of agreements, with no additional funding. These new agreements require states to deliver on housing supply targets and reform their planning systems. In particular the Turnbull Government will push to have planning regulations eased in 8 Western Sydney local government areas.

* The Turnbull Government will spend $374.2 million over the next two years creating an electronic health record by default for every Australian citizen. Enabling legislation has already been introduced into parliament.

* Cashless debit card trials in SA & WA will be extended until June 2018.

* 5,000 Jobseeker applicants will be identified for inclusion in the two-year drug testing trial by a data-driven profiling tool which identifies ‘relevant’ characteristics which indicate risk of substance abuse. These Jobseekers will also be subject to random Dept. Human Services appointments administered by a third-party contract supplier.

* Widow Allowance, Bereavement Allowance, Sickness Allowance and the Wife Pension will end in March 2020 and recipients moved onto Jobseeker allowance.

* People claiming welfare will have provide their tax file number to Centrelink on request to make it easier to access their income information.

* All information held by Dept. of Human Services will be allowed to be used in criminal proceedings as part of welfare fraud prosecution of an individual.

* Families on family tax benefit will lose 30 cents of their benefit for every dollar they earn over $94,316 from July 2018 due to an income taper test. This is likely to affect 100,000 families.

* $170m has been allocated to hold the divisive same sex marriage plebiscite in the face of the electorate’s clear preference for the matter to be decided by parliamentary vote.

* $4.68 million over five years will be cut from funding of onshore asylum seekers.

* The Turnbull Government has allocated $86.3m over four years to increase gas production and overcome state government and landholder opposition to the development of new domestic gas reserves.

* Net government debt is expected to stand at A$375.1 billion in 2018-19.

* The government credit limit has been raised to $600 million – that is the amount of debt it can incur via Commonwealth government securities issued.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Turnbull denies government is looking to cancel all welfare payments which are worth below $520.53 a year to a Centrelink recipient

Only 25 days until welfare recipients find out whether Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was telling the truth or a big fat political lie........

Images via @samanthamaiden

The Courier Mail, 19 March 2017:

WELFARE recipients would lose their concession cards and up to $49.10 a fortnight under secret budget savings costed by the Turnbull government.

A leaked document reveals the federal Government looked at scrapping all welfare payments below $20.02 a fortnight as part of the May budget……

“The objective of this proposal is to simplify administration of the payments system by setting a consistent floor below which payments would not be made, to avoid making small fortnightly payments,” the costings document said.

In its advice, the department warned the government those affected by the change would include “some who have experienced substantial reductions in payments as a result of recent policy changes” such as the ­assets test.

The document said the plan may cause “concern among affected age pension recipients”.

Despite costing the policy, Social Services Minister Christian Porter said the government had “no plans” for a minimum payment across all welfare ­categories.

Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) chief executive Dr Cassandra Goldie warned the government against welfare changes, saying Australia already has one of the most targeted system of ­income support.

She said the costed proposal would put pressure on “people who are trying to make ends meet”……

“Once again, this kind of proposal targets people on low and modest incomes to make savings,” Dr Goldie said.

“Pensioners, people on allowances and single parents stand to be affected if they are getting a small part of their overall income from income support.

The Australian, 19 March 2017:

The executive summary in the Department of Social Services costings document states: “As part of Budget Repair, it is proposed that from 1 July 2018, the minimum amount payable to social security payments recipients would be $20.02 a fortnight.

“If, after the application of the income and assets tests, a recipient’s notional fortnightly entitlement would be less than $20.02 but greater than $0, they will not receive a payment,” it says….

Mr Turnbull this morning issued a series of tweets, disputing that there would be any cut to aged pensions, but notably not addressing the claim that the proposal was costed.

“A report today that the government is cutting the aged pension is false and we outright reject it,” the Prime Minister tweeted. “I can assure all aged pensioners the measure reported will NOT be in the Budget.

“We assured the journalist too, but she insisted on writing the story. And sadly, I can also assure you that you can always rely on Bill Shorten to lie.”