Opinion

Budget largely ignores aged care and housing affordability

In a normal year, it would be called Budget Week; but, in reality, it is Election Week and everything in what Josh Frydenberg said on Tuesday night and what Anthony Albanese will say tonight is focused not on you or me or the nation but on winning an election.

Gough Whitlam knew how to spend taxpayers’ money.

He once told me that governments are formed by the votes of those in special interest groups.

Fund them, he said, and they will vote for you.

How does this fit in with what we were told on Tuesday night and what we are likely to hear tonight.

Petrol bills were allegedly at the centre of the cost of living relief package.

But there is no guarantee when you will receive the 22 cents a litre cut and how will you know whether you have or have not?

And should a responsible decision on fuel excise help high income earners with big petrol-guzzling cars?

Governments think things like Home Guarantee schemes, where the government guarantees to the banks that cuts in the upfront deposit to five percent for first home buyers and two percent for single parents, will help solve the housing crisis.

But if a Home Guarantee scheme creates an extra demand for homes, then the house prices become even dearer.

Unfortunately, Josh Frydenberg can’t solve the real problem which belongs to State Governments and their obsession with all things green.

Thousands and thousands of homes across Australia are shovel-ready to be built if green bureaucrats and State politicians got out of the way.

So, on the Whitlam principle, there is another group of people not happy, first home buyers.

But 30 per cent of Australians rent.

Who will the renters vote for when they see no prospect of owning a home?

What about those who are flood victims and have no home at all?

Byron Bay’s main street would usually see holidaymakers gearing up for Easter.

It is inundated.

Lismore are back facing the same flood problems as they faced a month ago.

There was nothing for them in the Budget.

The arts community have been smashed by Coronavirus.

The government has cut back funding support for the arts, a sector that has lost billions in ticket and other revenue since March 2020.

Voters in North Queensland, dependent on the coal mining industry, now learn that the government won’t commit to extra money for a new coal-fired powerstation in Collinsville, so Shine Energy has said it will walk away from the project if it did not receive more money by the end of February.

Where will these coal-mining dependent voters now place their votes since the Collinsville project was a commitment from the last election?

Then, of course, there is the aged care industry, sustained by underpaid and overworked aged care workers.

Many gathered outside Parliament House on Wednesday morning.

There was a Royal Commission into the aged care industry and a key recommendation was improving the wages and conditions of aged care workers.

There are almost 3,000 aged care homes; almost 200,000 residents; over a million family members; 300,000 employees.

The Royal Commission found “substandard care and abuse pervaiding the Australian aged care system.”

The report found the aged care system was “understaffed” and the workforce “underpaid and undertrained”.

It also found that the entry level pay for an aged care worker is $21.09 an hour, lower than that for a supermarket shelf stacker.

Then there is the disability sector.

People with disabilities and their families make up a signficant voting bloc.

There are 500,000 people with an NDIS package and hundreds of thousands more fighting for one.

They say they have been “short-changed” by a budget offering no new spending initiatives.

How will all these people vote?

If aged care, defence, disability services, flood victims are to be provided for, and these are permanently embedded into the budget, some political leader is going to have to put up taxes or slash expenditure to enable us to be able to pay our way.

And if all this spending stimulus is fed into the economy, then we can’t avoid what is happening in the rest of the world, significant inflationary pressures.

That means interest rates going up.

I worked for a Prime Minister in a federal election.

The first thing you must do is see the world as it is, not as you would like it to be.

Last year, the Liberal Party was decimated in WA; only a couple weeks ago it was decimated in South Australia; and the most recent polls have federal Labor at 55 and the Coalition at 45 on a two-party preferred basis.

How does the Gough Whitlam principle shift political allegiances?

It will be interesting to see how Albanese handles these challenges tonight; but a significant word of caution.

You can’t go on spending taxpayers’ money forever.

There is a lot of talk about national security and national sovereignty.

You can’t have either with an economy drowning in debt.

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