Goodbye budget cuts, hello tax cuts

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has unveiled a federal budget loaded with $74.6bn in spending measures, pouring money into aged care and tax cuts while ignoring universities and renewables (The Conversation). 

The big-ticket items:

  • $17.7bn over five years for aged care including 80,000 home care packages, but short of the royal commission recommendation of more than $9bn a year (Croakey); 
  • $8bn to extend temporary middle-to-low income tax cuts for another year (Accountants Daily)  and $3.4bn for business asset writeoffs (ABC); 
  • $2.3bn for mental health, including a new National Suicide Prevention Office (Guardian Australia);  
  • $1.3bn extra over a decade for ASIO, and more funding for yet-to-be-passed national security bills (ZD Net).
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Unis, migrants, renewables miss out

The debt and deficit rhetoric is gone, but the Coalition still made sure to target its ideological enemies:

  • No targeted measures to help universities starved of international student revenue, with borders not forecast to open before 2022 (AFR); 
  • A $671m cut will force new migrants to wait four years to access benefits, while $464.7m is earmarked for immigration detention (Guardian Australia); 
  • Renewables and electric vehicles were ignored in favour of gas and refinery projects (Renew Economy), which Greens Leader Adam Bandt framed as “fast-tracking climate collapse” (Energy Magazine). 

Labor shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers slammed a “political fix” budget and highlighted projections that national debt will exceed $1tn (The New Daily).

Even that could prove optimistic if the iron ore price collapses or the vaccine rollout continues to lag (Guardian Australia).

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A budget for women, advertised to men

The Coalition promised a budget for women, pledging $3.4bn in a bid to win back estranged female voters.

The fine print:

  • Half the money is actually for childcare, which also benefits men (AFR); 
  • $354 million for women’s health, including $95.9 million on screening of IVF embryos (news.com.au); 
  • $164m to trial cash grants for women fleeing domestic violence (ABC); 

Facebook ads spruiking the budget indicated the Coalition had a different demographic in mind, as they largely targeted young men and retirees (Crikey).

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Laming clings to committee

Liberal MP Andrew Laming has broken a promise to stand down from all parliamentary roles, retaining his position as a committee chair, through which he earns an extra $23,237 annually.

Labor moved on Tuesday to force Laming to stand down as chair of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training on account of his “long history of trolling and abusing his own constituents on Facebook” (SMH). 

Coalition MPs voted down the motion.

“To refer to me and misrepresent me as a ‘taxpayer-funded troll’ for my online work ... is a misrepresentation and a reflection on my character,” Laming told Parliament.

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Double dose of poison for mouse plague

An emergency permit has been granted to allow bait producers to double the toxicity of poisoned bait, in a bid to address the mouse plague swamping the eastern states.

The higher dosed bait should be on the market soon and will only cost farmers about one dollar more per kilogram.

NSW Farmers warns however that farmers can’t afford more bait, with demand causing prices to skyrocket (Western Advocate). 

The association went to the state parliament to lobby for a support package of up to $25,000 a farm, but NSW government ministers did not show up (The Morning Bulletin). 

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One thing I can’t do anything about is the ... sex that I was given courtesy of the chromosome interaction, whatever, that caused me to be a male.

Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz cries sexism over his demotion to third place on the Liberal Senate ticket. Life as a white male politician truly is just one obstacle after another (ABC).

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Postscript: $230 Billion In Budget Earmarked For Empathy Training

In 2021, two out of every three government MPs in Australia is living without empathy. That means there are MPs who do not have the emotional capacity to think of anyone but themselves. MPs who – through no fault of their own – do not understand why taking unsolicited photos of women is a creepy. Or why covering up a rape is wrong (The Shovel).

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Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.