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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Social Justice for the Aged, the vulnerable and Low Income Australians

above: Federal Minister for Ageing, Mark Butler has had some victories for Aged Australians - But there's a lot that's left to be done!!! 
In the following article ALP Socialist Left Activist Tristan Ewins argues in favour of reform in the interests of vulnerable and Aged Australians - including tax breaks and national aged care insurance. We need ALP activists to take up these causes and make them a reality before the September election!  Mark Butler seems to be interested - But are others in the Cabinet and Caucus listening?

Firstly: Tax Breaks for Vulnerable Australians wanting to ‘shift down’ to a cheaper home

In the Herald-Sun today (June 2nd 2013)  Federal Minister for Ageing Mark Butler was on record coming out in support of removing Stamp Duty tax from the sale of the estates of pensioners.  The tax is seen as a disincentive to ‘shift down’ to smaller and more manageable properties – and the suggestion of an initiative in this direction is similar to what we have argued for at ‘Left Focus’ and ‘ALP Socialist Left Forum’.   This makes good sense for pensioners who can no longer manage a (relatively) large property, including properties with large gardens.

In response the Victorian Conservative government is claiming that this kind of program already exists in the form of a Stamp Duty waiver when shifting to properties up to $330,000 value, and with concessions for properties up to $750,000 value.   This may be true, but the Federal Labor government would be right to see these measures as insufficient for pensioners: with Stamp Duty still comprising a major disincentive to “shift down” to a more manageable property.    Quite simply there are few decent properties – even small properties – under $330,000 market value these days.   And pensioners may not want to move out to the outer urban fringe in order to benefit from such programs.

Also importantly: such schemes could be of interest to low income families as well, and also low income divorced singles who would benefit from ‘shifting downwards’.  For those and others of limited wealth and on low incomes for whom a property may be all they have, the option to ‘shift downwards’ to a smaller property could make a great difference in accessing funds from the sale of their residences.   It could also potentially make a great difference to disabled Australians for whom the only source of income is the disability pension.    Though to avoid the dual outcome of gentrification of some suburbs, and infrastructure and service poverty in ‘low income ghettos’ - such a policy needs to be combined with active intervention to overcome infrastructure and service deficits in affected suburbs.

So at ‘Left Focus’ and ‘ALP Socialist Left Forum’ we are saying ‘Yes’ to the removal of Stamp Duty Tax for aged and disability pensioners, as well as low income Australians and lower income divorcees for whom relocation could make a great deal of difference for their quality of life.  Though so the policy cannot be abused we are suggesting it can only apply to specific individuals once in every ten years – with the exception of house sales upon entering care.  We are saying ‘Yes’ to Federal compensation of State governments so such a policy can be implemented nation-wide – and for Labor to adopt this as an innovative and equitable policy with the election drawing nearer.  Further, we are arguing that this be paid for by restructuring the tax mix rather than through austerity.  And we are hoping some people in the Federal and State governments are listening!

Again:  Aged Care Insurance

A brief postscript, though!

We are also saying ‘Yes’ to National Aged Care Insurance as a priority comparable to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.  But we are opposing regressive user pays charges for aged care services and accommodation. 

We are saying ‘Yes’ to further improvements for the pay, conditions and career paths of Aged Care workers – As well as improvements to the quality of service enjoyed by all aged residents in care – whether high or low intensity care.   This means good quality food; privacy with personal rooms if so desired; better carer and nurse to patient ratios; facilitated social interaction and intellectual stimulation;  and access to IT for those so interested; as well as access to change of scenery including gardens.  It means gentle exercise for those capable; and prompt access to dental care if necessary.  It also means compassionate care for dementia sufferers, and a big public investment for dementia and Alzheimers’ research.  Finally it means support for Carers’ whose intervention could make the difference in preventing premature resort to high intensity care.

Not that long ago Labor figures were speaking of approaching the coming election on the theme of ‘Social Insurance’.  This still makes sense!  But since Abbott has attempted to neutralise the issue with bipartisan support for disability insurance, Aged Care Insurance as outlined here could reignite that debate. And if Abbott attempts to neutralise this issue by adopting a similar policy – then that is a progressive victory as well!

At ‘Left Focus’ and “ALP Socialist Left Forum’ we have argued that Tony Abbott is betraying his Democratic Labor Party heritage by taking a hard line against social welfare, and policies which punish the poor and vulnerable. ‘Compassionate conservatism’ which has a heart for social welfare may not be our ideal – but it is better than contemporary neo-liberal  Neo-Conservatism – which ‘has no heart’.  If by some quirk of fate there are Conservatives reading this post, we urge them to consider the positions of the post-war German Christian Democrats and their support for social welfare and a ‘social market’.  We are saying this well aware that the other aspect of the DLP was its regrettable role in a split which kept the ALP out of power for decades; and which took an anti-liberal authoritarian line in favour of literally banning the Communist Party of Australia; and opposing militant unionism. But perhaps were Labor to adopt Aged Care Insurance – Abbott might also rediscover his conscience and assert himself publicly and in the Liberal Party Room ahead of the election – in favour of the policy.   

And again: win or lose the election – by initiating the policy and potentially securing bipartisan support Labor would have achieved a vital progressive victory. 

1 comment:

  1. The American Christopher Boyce described CIA covert operations in Australia aimed
    at bringing down the Labor Government of Gough Whitlam. Boyce was sentenced
    to 40 years solitary confinement for his refusal to stay silent on the matter.

    Five years after the overthrow of Whitlam, in April 1981, senior executives of nineteen Australian corporations met at Melbourne's Noah's Hotel for a "forecasting round table" organised by Business International. Business International is a worldwide American organisation of "consultants" which represents the top multi-national companies in Australia. In December 1977, the New York Times exposed Business International's clandestine links with the CIA.

    The nineteen had come to hear Business International's Alan Carroll express his concern about the resurgence of the Labor Party under Bill Hayden, who had held senior posts in the Whitlam Government and described himself as a republican and a democratic socialist. At that time, Bob Hawke had completed his term as ACTU President and was a newly elected Labor Party Member of Parliament. Carroll told the meeting that he knew Hawke "pretty well" and "basically, Hawke will be Labor Party leader by the middle of next year; and that's my business, and we won't go into that in any great depth. But he will be there. It's all under way. The game plan is totally under way and I forecast 3 to 5 on a Hawke Government in '83! We had a meeting with him about one month ago and we're meeting with him every six months from now. It's terribly important." A top-secret CIA briefing document for the U.S. President described Hawke as "the best qualified" to succeed Whitlam as Labor leader.

    The forecasts of the Agency and Alan Carroll came true in almost every detail. In February 1983, three weeks before an election was due, Hawke and others on the party's right wing mounted a successful putsch against Bill Hayden. With the slogan, "Bob Hawke, Bringing Australia Together", the CIA's chosen candidate became Australian Prime Minister. Hawke went on to cultivate many ties with anti-Communist groups and developed what U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz described as "a fine relationship" with Presidents Nixon and Reagan.

    Hawke's Government repeatedly refused to release some 1,200 documents on the Nugan Hand Bank, the front for international crime and illegal CIA operations in Australia. Hawke also refused to find out why the CIA barred the release, under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, of fourteen intelligence reports on Commerce International, the CIA-front company that played a central role in the destruction of the Whitlam Government. In 1989 a committee headed by a former Chief Justice of the High Court recommended rigorous Government secrecy in order to prevent disclosures about the activities of the CIA, MI5 and MI6 in the internal affairs of Australia.

    The CIA's illicit actions against the Australian Labor Party clearly indicate that the Agency will not hesitate to move against even supposed allies if it considers that they threaten U.S. interests; the full range of CIA dirty tricks can be expected to be applied against any Western nation with the same lack of impunity and regard for the law that the Agency has shown in its wars with its enemies in the East.