Budgets are about choices - what will this Government choose?

Tonight Abigail gave an impassioned speech about the role of Budgets in our democracy, in light of the Federal Budget being recently released.

Abigail said:

Budgets are about choices. Put simply, they tell us what the government of the day chooses as worthy of funding and what it doesn't. The impact of those choices on us, and on future generations, is the result of very deliberate political decisions. Government politicians do not like it when they are told that it is their fault that we are in the mess we are in. The other day I told Government members in this House that I blame them for our lack of preparedness for the floods. They have had the power to change things—to take strong action to curb carbon emissions and to prepare our State properly for extreme weather events—but they have chosen not to. If they are not to blame for that inaction, who is?

Yesterday the Federal Government handed down its garish pre-election budget. The Morrison Government has again chosen to value big business and the wealthy over those doing it tough, the profits of fossil fuel companies over the climate and the environment, the fortunes of the wealthy over the needs of the poor, and their own chances of winning votes in marginal electorates over the real and pressing needs of the people they were elected to serve. Nothing dictated those choices for the Federal Government. No magical economic rules dictated a budget of this kind, as much as it is at pains to make you think that they did. These budgetary choices to favour one thing over another are purely political.

Take the Federal Government's mischievous move to throw a few hundred dollars at voters before the May election while entrenching a larger tax hike from 1 July with the decision not to continue the low and middle income tax offset in the coming years. That is despite its rhetoric about wanting to ease the cost of living, while failing to raise income support payments to a level that would ensure that people no longer live in poverty. Let us be clear: Having people live in poverty is a choice made by governments. Take the fact that there has been no real increase in rental assistance payments in over 20 years while property investors continue to be given the benefit of nonsensical tax subsidies in their housing stock, contributing to the dire lack of affordable housing that pushes ever more people into housing insecurity. Or take the decision to double the number of places under the first home loan guarantee, which helps only those people already close to attaining homeownership, while failing to reverse the decades of underfunding of the social housing sector. Do not even get me started on Scott Morrison's comments that the best way to help renters is to help them to buy a house. How out of touch is that man?

Looking at the Federal budget as a whole and the choices that the Federal Government made in it, we see a government that is intent on choosing to paint society as a series of individuals who are trying to get ahead of each other, vying for a piece of the mythical prosperity pie, and not wanting to succeed or share the fruits of their successes. However, that is not the society that I see around me. When I look around this State and across Australia I see people who, despite everything that has been thrown at them in the past three years—from bushfires to pandemics to floods—have banded together to help one another. You only have to look at the stories that we are hearing from the floods in Lismore of people risking life and limb to ensure that no-one is left behind. We are an inherently cooperative and collaborative bunch, and when faced with adversity we find ways to survive and get by as best we can despite the obstacles.

We need a Federal Government that recognises the hardships that are being experienced and chooses to offer support that meets people where they are now. It must recognise the efforts that people are already making to help one another. We need a Federal Government that joins with us and helps out too. We needed a Federal budget for our fatigued and exhausted health and aged-care workers, and for those who have lost everything in the floods and the bushfires. We need a Federal budget that takes meaningful action to reduce the chances of these disasters happening again and again, and which shows that the Federal Government recognises the absolute hell that people have been going through and seeks to ease their burden, as those people have sought to relieve the burden of others. We need a Federal budget that recognises us as the complex, caring and capable human beings that we are. But we did not get that budget from the Morrison Government. We instead got a budget that reduces us to individuals, to the mere productive units of a neoliberal's wet dream. That was their choice. I hope the New South Wales Government chooses differently for this year's budget in May.

 

The full transcript can be found in Hansard here

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