It has often been said that a democratic country gets the Government it deserves. With this in mind I have been reflecting on the Federal Budget and what it says about Australia as a nation.
Particularly in an election year, the spending priorities of the Government reflect what they believe to be the priorities of the people that will re-elect them. So, what do we make of this budget?
In essence, it is a sad reflection of our self-centredness, short term horizons and greed. We’d much rather tax cuts worth an extra coffee a day than to:
1) Deliver sufficient funding to meet our obligations under the UN Millennium Development Goals which would make a huge difference to millions of people living in poverty;
2) Invest in parenting and young children by providing home visits and support to new parents and parents with children under 2 years of age. Trials of such programs in NSW have shown massive improvements in children’s welfare, significant reductions in parental stress, depression etc and a whole stack of other benefits that make a massive difference over a child’s life. Unfortunately, the funding for a national roll-out of such a program is not forthcoming;
3) Invest in our future to tackle climate change. Measures could involve serious investigations and research into new technologies, assistance to commercialise emerging technologies, rebates to encourage the uptake of energy efficient appliances, invest in new electricity generation infrastructure, undertake wholesale reviews of our transport systems, taxation and planning structures etc etc. There is much to be done.
4) Invest in water. See comments above on climate change.
This is just a start. The fact that extremely large budget surpluses are being generated indicates that the government has plenty of revenue coming in and that our politicians are bereft of nation building ideas. Not every dollar has to be spent or thrown away in tax and cash handouts. I’m certain that there are plenty of projects out there that are worth investing in (from either an economic, social or environmental view point). Unfortunately, these investments are not being made.
While polls continue to show that people would much rather better services and investments in the future than tax cuts – the politicians seem to go for the tax cut – and we don’t seem to object. We don’t protest in the streets and we don’t vote them out of office. In spite of what we say, perhaps the reality of our actions as a nation is a bit hard to swallow – we really would much rather money in our own pocket than a better hospital that someone else uses or a clean water supply in a village somewhere in Africa……