Budget Hockey – Not A Game You Can Afford To Play

Yesterday, Australia’s Federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey delivered his government’s budget; outlining their plans and strategies for achieving what they claim is a blueprint for a sustainable economy into the future.

I took the liberty of researching the background of our current Treasurer and find that he is learned in the Arts and in Law and I read “He was a banking and finance lawyer, and Director of Policy to the Premier of New South Wales, before entering politics. (in 1996)

Mr Hockey has been a politician since 1996 (eighteen years) after an unspecified period working for a politician. I don’t know how many years Mr Hockey spent working at the coalface of the Australian financial legal system or how long he was the Director of Policy to the NSW Premier. But given that he entered politics himself at the ripe old age of 31, I assume neither of those occupations was lengthy. And since then, Mr Hockey’s primary occupation has, like all politicians, been …. well …….. talking!

In 1994, Mr Hockey married an investment banker, who later became head of foreign exchange and global finance at Deutsche Bank. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Hockey)

I am probably just becoming old and cynical, but I have some trouble equating Mr Hockey’s background with that of somebody who is in touch with ordinary Australians. The fact that he is now in a position to determine policies that go right to the heart of daily life for ordinary people evokes feelings of real dread for me.

However, I think its important to keep sight of reality when considering the just-released budget of our new Treasurer. For starters, I don’t imagine that Mr Hockey sat up in the evenings after his vigorous parliamentary duties, jotting down the details of the current budget. I assume he had help from a whole army of shiny-arsed public servants and political cronies. It isn’t just Mr. Hockey’s budget alone but also that of an army of faceless policy makers ….. and of his Liberal Coalition party members.

Mr Hockey is, in some sense at least, just the figurehead. I think that the political beast in Australia has some similarity to the hydra of greek mythology. Only instead of having many heads, our political parties have only one ……… but multiple arseholes!

I think its important too, to acknowledge that the current government has been recently elected to office by a majority of Australian citizens and, as such, they deserve the opportunity to implement or inflict the policies which they promised and upon which they were voted to office.

The reality is that political budgets follow a time honored pattern. You get elected and you immediately impose a horror budget on the population. They can’t do much at you, since you are now good for three or four years. So you can safely dish up two tough budgets, one benign one and you still have time to deliver a suck-up budget to the hapless voters in time for the next election. The only budget that they will remember at election time …. is the most recent one. Voters really do deserve the political leadership that they get!

If you believe the current press write-ups, there seem to be very few people who are happy with the budget and a great many who are horrified or incensed by it. Personally, I’m not really interested in most of it. I’m old enough that I’ve seen many budgets come and go. I’ve watched the pattern of horror, tough, tough, sweetener ….. repeat itself enough times to understand how the game is played. But there is one aspect of this current budget that I find so draconian and so socially irresponsible that it just takes my breath away. And its that one issue that is the point of this essay.

In their infinite wisdom, the powers that be have reviewed the availability of support for the young unemployed and the proposal, as I understand it is this. A person younger than thirty years old, upon becoming unemployed, will not be eligible for unemployment benefits for a period of six months. They will then be eligible to receive unemployment benefits for the next six months. While they are receiving unemployment benefits, job seekers under 30 will also have to do 25 hours per week on a work for the dole scheme.

There are so many things wrong with this proposal that I barely know where to start! Perhaps I can begin with an observation about wage rates, when it comes to working for the dole. As I understand it, a single person on unemployment benefits currently receives $510.50 per fortnight (http://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/centrelink/newstart-allowance). To maintain eligibility for this ‘benefit’, the person will be required to perform 50 hours of work and will presumably incur the same costs in getting to and from their ’employment’ as would any paid employee. The critical difference is that a person on unemployment ‘benefits’ will be receiving the equivalent of $10.21 per hour. It isn’t enough that these people must endure the ignomy of having to jump through all the administrative hoops to qualify for this modest handout. But now they’ll have to work for it, at half the rate they’d make for doing night fill at the local supermarket.

The next worry that I have concerns the massive lie that is implied by this government ….. that there are jobs available for anyone who is prepared to work. This government came to power on a promise that they’d create 2 million new jobs in the Australian economy. So far, all we’ve seen is massive job losses with major employers either closing their doors or shifting operations offshore. The reality is that if every person who is physically and mentally capable of working was actively and honestly seeking employment, there simply aren’t the jobs available for them to fill. Not now and not anytime soon. This policy is therefore deliberately ‘hanging these people out to dry’.

Ask yourself what options will be available for a twenty five year old who finds him/herself unemployed and who doesn’t have the benefit of a family or other support network. With no access to financial support for six months, these people will become vulnerable to poverty and exploitation of the worst kind. I never thought I’d see a day when, in this lucky country, prostitution, home invasion, robbery and drug dealing would become the only available ‘career choices’ for some people. Well done Mr Hockey and friends. You really are delivering a significant segment of this society into the third world.

I do hope that this budget includes a significant increase in provision for law enforcement. This policy alone guarantees that we will need it. It used to be that I believed Australians were indeed a lucky people. The reality is that we, as a nation, have always tended to be overly reliant on primary production to provide the lion’s share of economic prosperity. Now that we are allowing an obscene portion of that income to be retained by a privileged few, it seems that the country can no longer afford to be lucky. We just have a select few lucky citizens and the rest of us are just liabilities and hangers-on!

As I said at the beginning, I’m not much fussed about most of the detail of the budget. And since Australia just elected these clowns into office, I’d be saying that you should just suck it up and give them their electorally mandated chance to screw us over. But when a political party, ANY political party, chooses to disinherit a significant segment of its people in the name of economic prosperity for others, I think we have to acknowledge that we’ve made a significant electoral blunder. I never thought I’d see a day when a double dissolution would seem like a good idea ….. but here it is.

Andrew Caddle 2014_05_14




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