SO pensioners and the poor will be slammed by Joe Hockey to pay for shiny new jet fighters!After months of complaining what a poor Budget position Australia has been left by Labor, the government has announced the purchase of an additional 58 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters at a price of $12.4 billion. There has never been a clearer indication of the priorities of the ultra-conservative Treasurer of the Abbott government.
In the same week, former Liberal Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, is publicly demonstrating what thinking, genuine liberals see as options for our international relations.
While our ultra-conservatives purchase these (yet to be proven) jets on the never-never from our close allies and friends in the US, Fraser is preparing to lecture at the Crawford School at the ANU on his new book “Dangerous Allies: Australia’s role in the Pacific”.
He will examine Australia’s history of strategic dependence on “great and powerful friends” – namely the US and the British empire – and question the continuation of this position.
And Hockey continues to talk about means testing, co-payments and the cost of the aged pension. No mention of asking the mining industry, which earned $51 billion in pre-tax earnings in 2009-10, to pull its weight from what should be our shared natural resources.
In 2012, the Australia Institute estimated that taxpayers in Australia subsidised the mining industry to the tune of $4 billion through things such as the fuel rebate, roads, rail and other infrastructure. This government axed the mining tax.
And the poor need to pay.
“It is appropriate,” the Treasurer told a meeting, “that those who use government services should contribute towards their cost.”
Hey, Joe, what do you think our taxes do? They contribute!
And then he turned on the age pension: “Of the 15 programs, the (Audit) report observes that the age pension is the largest by a fair margin. The $40 billion we spend each year makes it our single biggest spending program.
“It is 10 per cent of all Commonwealth spending.”
And Joe’s solutions: stronger means testing; push the age of entitlement to 70; force co-payments at GPs and outsource aged care where possible to the private sector.
“Nothing is free. Someone always pays,” is the Treasurer’s mantra. Hospital costs grow at 10 per cent per year – the third fastest of the identified programs. So the government is considering a GP co-payment despite no evidence of widespread misuse of doctors. The likelihood is to see a movement towards hospital emergency, which is free and where treatment costs are much, much higher than in a primary health care setting.
The other two big programs are the National Disability Insurance scheme at 46.2 per cent growth and Tony Abbott’s baby the Child Care and Paid Parental Leave Scheme at 11.5 per cent growth. How long before this Treasurer starts picking on people with disabilities and begins taking candy from babies?
The government simply showed awful timing with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter funding in the middle of softening up the community for a horror Budget, which looks like cutting at the most vulnerable.
Even if it was just before Anzac Day! Which raises another question: Who is such a threat to Australia that we need to buy such toys? Well, nobody. However, the way diplomacy is going with our near neighbours – they might be needed by 2020 – the earliest they will be able to be deployed.