Territory Stories

Sunday Territorian 18 May 2014



Sunday Territorian 18 May 2014


Sunday Territorian; NewspaperNT




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Community newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin.; Australian newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin.

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Nationwide News Pty. Limited

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Copyright. Made available by the publisher under licence.

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SUNDAY MAY 18 2014 OPINION 15 V1 - NTNE01Z01MA I couldnt make sense of Australia without coming to Darwin TONY ROBINSON The actor known for playing Baldrick in Blackadder is filming a documentary in the Top End Its not just a Territory issue, its an Australian issue JESS RIBEIRO The former Top End musician headlined a gig to raise money and awareness for the Muckaty anti-nuclear movement At that time, people my age werent supposed to get cancer LINDY GIBSON The breast cancer survivor and Mothers Day Classic sponsor says early diagnosis is the key Theyre showing each other, Im a hero I can come steal while the owner is here LEO PARIS The Anula shopkeeper who was menaced by a group of youths who came into his store Tough Budget ignores need for fairer society Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockeys Budget heads in the right direction to reduce debt, but that in itself is not enough Picture: GARY RAMAGE MOST budgets come and go and rarely ever rate a single mention again. But the Federal Budget handed down by Treasurer Joe Hockey last Tuesday is different: it will change the nation. Fundamentally, it marks a line in the sand. The days when we pay for our promises on the never-never are over. Hockey has cut up our national credit card. Its time to pay up. Political pundits can argue until the cows come home about whether there is a budget emergency in Australia. Yes, our national debt is low relative to other nations about 15 per cent, compared with 80 or 90 per cent in many European countries. But, trust me, you wouldnt want to be those other countries, with sclerotic growth and high unemployment. As a significant importer of foreign capital to fund our growth, its more important for Australia to prove our creditworthiness our capacity to pay our bills and live within our means. And we havent been. The salad days of the min ing boom are over. The global financial crisis and its aftermath cut a swathe through government revenue. Tax collected on company profits has dwindled. So, too, did tax collected on property and other capital gains. Wages growth has been slower meaning less revenue from personal incomes. As a nation, we took a temporary boom and turned it into permanent spending promises. We cut taxes below what is now needed to balance the budget. And we spent money on permanent increases to pensions and family payments we can now no longer afford. Without Budget cuts of the magnitude unveiled last Tuesday, we are heading for decades of deficits. Worthy national programs like a National Disability Insurance Scheme are under threat if we do nothing to close the yawning gap between budget revenues and spending. And so last Tuesdays Budget asks Australians to make a sacrifice. We pay now, so the government can continue to invest in productivity-enhancing things such as education, skills and infrastructure. Paying more for less will be painful. It will mean a reduction in the living standards that many Australians have come to enjoy. But whats the alternative? A budget in deficit forever is no strategy at all. Hockey and Abbott are due some respect for finally pulling the veil from our eyes and exposing the truth about our budget that the Rudd and Gillard governments tried so very hard to hide. This Budget goes a long way to fixing the budget. But, as things stand, it fails the fairness test. The debt levy on high-income earners is a temporary salve that expends significant political capital on a broken promise that will raise a paltry $3.1 billion. High-income earners largely escaped last Tuesdays budget scalpel. Rich Australians will continue to benefit disproportionately from tax breaks on superannuation, family trusts, share market gains and property investment. Meanwhile, middle and low income earners are hit hard. These families spend more of their weekly budget on petrol, so the increased excise hits them hardest. Family tax benefits may need a haircut but that will hurt, too. A flat GP co-payment of $7 will also hurt low-income families relatively harder than high-income families. Increases to university fees will make it harder for students from low-income households to make the grade financially. And imagine the plight of a 28-year-old electrician with two kids and a mortgage who is made redundant. Under Hockeys Budget, he would have no income for six months. That just doesnt add up. This Budget, as it stands, fails the fairness test. But that doesnt have to be the end of it. Comprehensive tax reform can help balance the books. The governments upcoming white paper on tax reform must look at the disproportionate benefit high-income earners enjoy, such as the flat taxation of super at 15 in the dollar. Tax breaks on capital gains should also be wound back. More fundamentally, Australia needs a beefed up GST an efficient tax that will help state governments fund hospitals and schools. But a proportion of the revenue raised must go to compensate lowerand middle-income households through tax cuts or pension increases. Left as it is, Hockey and Abbotts first Budget would indeed change the nation: by increasing the inequality that exists in Australia. If they are serious about fixing the budget and contributing to a fairer Australia, there is much more work to do.