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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

From Aged Care to Austerity ; Issues of Concern to Progressives as the Federal Budget Approaches

above:  Scott Morrison will likely bring down an Austerity Federal Budget in May ; But he is taking a harder line on Superannuation Concessions than Labor.  Labor needs to 'up the Ante' on Superannuation Concessions to maintain as much credibility as it can on Distributive Justice.

Dear readers; 

The following letters have been written over the past month ; Most have not been published (except here).  But I hope that here (at my blogs) they will promote reflection and debate.   This time we’re looking at the following:

·        Superannuation Concessions

·        liberal rights and the trashing of Cori Bernadi’s Office

·        Labor and Negative Gearing

·        Life Expectancy for the Mentally Ill

·        Aged Care

·        The Threat of Austerity in the Upcoming Morrison Federal Budget.

Dr Tristan Ewins

Labor needs to up the ante on Superannuation Concessions

Turnbull’s tougher stance on Superannuation Concessions raises the prospect of it ‘outflanking’ Labor on one front pertaining to distributive justice.  The tax concessions threshold stands to be cut back from incomes of under $300,000/year to those under $180,000/year – compared with Labor’s current target of  under $250,000/year.  (‘The Age’, 20/4)  Malcolm Turnbull has wasted much of the ‘small l liberal kudos’ and political capital he had won after deposing Tony Abbott.  To win the Federal Election, Bill Shorten and Labor cannot afford for him to ‘claw it back’.  As a minimum Shorten must now match Turnbull’s policy.  Even better: he must outbid Turnbull on distributive justice ; and the related theme of Budget repair without Austerity. Indeed Labor should welcome the opportunity for a degree of bipartisanship on an issue where its ‘distributive justice instincts’ were already demanding a stronger policy. Richard Denniss of The Australia Institute has projected that Superannuation Concessions will soon cost taxpayers  $50 billion every year : mainly in the form of an effective subsidy for the unambiguously well-off.  (paid by the rest of us)   A responsible policy would aim to cut this expense by half as a minimum; targeting the well-off specifically; and done as soon as is humanly possible.


Andrew Bolt was wrong on liberal rights re: trashing of Cori Bernadi’s Office

Andrew Bolt  (Herald-Sun, 21/3) condemns “leftists” and “socialists” for the trashing of Liberal MP Cory Bernadi’s office.  And indeed the tactics of those people were questionable at best.  In a picket line there is a clear physical objective – which can interfere with the profits of a private business – and thus deliver leverage to workers over wages and conditions.  Similarly boycotts of the goods of a country or a specific company can achieve leverage in a comparable way.   But the protestors against Bernadi achieved no leverage over government policy through their actions.  And while Andrew Bolt often agitates for free speech, he appears to have nothing to say about Mike Baird’s repressive anti-protest laws.   The problem with mistaken protest strategies can be that they play into the hands of the illiberal forces (ironically in the Liberal Party) who are now threatening our civil liberties.  A truly liberal and democratic society not only supports free speech – but also defends the right to protest, and even the right to engage in civil disobedience. Those rights are now under threat – and whereas Bernadi abhors ‘Leftist totalitarians’ the real threat to our rights comes from within his own party.

Negative Gearing Changes Just the First Step in Restoring the Australian Dream

Labor MP Andrew Leigh  (21/3)  rightly argued that increasing supply is the key to making housing affordable for more Australians.   Labor’s anti-Negative Gearing policies should encourage a shift to building new properties – hence helping to facilitate that crucial objective. But if we really want to increase supply we need to look at many billions invested in non-clustered public and social housing.  To provide for those people thus enabled to enter the housing market we also need to invest in the amenities and infrastructure provided in emerging suburbs.  Young families need transport and communications infrastructure, hospitals and schools, parks and gardens – to achieve the living standards they need and deserve.   But this is only possible via a significant public investment .   That goes against the grain of the Turnbull Government’s emphasis on cutting expenditure – which sabotages the Commonwealth’s revenue base - and hence its ability to provide for these things.  Company Tax cuts (read: corporate welfare)  are the last thing this country needs to provide for skills, infrastructure, social capital – all necessary for a successful economy and society.


Neglect of the Mentally Ill “A kind of Creeping euthanasia”; a Response to ‘The Age’

Catherine Armitage of ‘The Age’(‘A kind of creeping euthanasia’, 11/4/16)   is to be commended on her article exposing the rate at which mentally-ill Australians are dying well before their time.  That is, that the mentally ill (almost half a million Australians with a serious mental illness)  are on average dying 30 per cent earlier than other Australians – not just because of suicide, but mainly because of preventable physical illness.  That is, 9000 Australians dying as a consequence every year. This far outstrips the road toll and suicide rate combined several times over.  With the Federal Election now looming it is to be hoped that this will develop into an ongoing campaign in the Australian media, including in ‘The Age’: a campaign which will not relent until there are comprehensive and fully-funded government programs to ‘Close the Gap’ on life expectancy for the mentally ill, much as there are programs to ‘Close the Gap’ for Indigenous Australia. 


Responding to Morrison:  Austerity not the Answer!

Apparently Scott Morrison is under pressure to cut spending in the upcoming Federal Budget rather than raise taxes. (Herald-Sun, 17/4, ‘p 11)  What some people don’t understand, though, it that there is no ‘magic pudding’, and that cuts to health, education, infrastructure and welfare will have enormous ramifications.  Without increasing progressive taxation – which takes more from the rich than the poor – then there are two possible consequences.  Either the quality of services and infrastructure: like broadband, roads, health, education, aged care  – will suffer.  Or there will be privatisation and/or user pays.  There will be more $100,000 degrees.  State schools will suffer – as will our skilled workforce and economy.  And Australia will continue to lag behind in the quality of its broadband.  The problem with this is that ‘collective consumption’ through taxes can actually give voters a ‘better deal’ in their capacity as tax payers than as isolated private  consumers. Medicare demonstrates this.   But the Liberals have an Ideological fixation on ‘ever smaller government’ which defies practicality and common sense.  Supposed Christians like Abbott and Bernadi also ignore an older tradition of Christian Democracy which had no issue with a mixed economy and a ‘fair welfare state’.

We need a strong response on Aged Care ; This needs to be made a top issue in the impending Federal Election

Sarah Russell (The Age, ‘We’re ignoring the needs of our ageing population’, 17/4) draws attention to the under-funding of Aged Care : quality of training, staff pay,  conditions, morale, and numbers of staff on premises.  The result is poor service regarding turning in beds, assistance with eating, dressing and showering.  But the problems with Aged Care and Rights go deeper.  Those in residential care often simply don’t have anything to do but stare at TV and walls all day.  Similarly those ‘ageing in place’ (at home) can be lonely, socially isolated, and bereft of meaning in life. Hence appallingly
high levels of suicide amongst the aged. (especially men)  A common response is for policy makers to throw their hands in the air at ‘the ageing of our population’.  But the current  Aged Care budget  is $17 billion out of a $1.6 Billion economy – or approximately one per cent.  An indexed annual $5 billion/year boost could make a big difference: providing programs for social engagement, purpose, entertainment and mental stimulation, moving away from ‘user pays’, increasing pensions, and providing skilled staff numbers which are desperately needed. – We need an ongoing campaign to make this a top priority in the upcoming Federal election.


  1. I think we need to scrap the whole superannuation scheme and adequately fund the age pension from tax revenue collected from the upper 10% and the companies they own. Superannuation not only gives the workers illusions about having material interests in common with the capitalist class, it's also blatantly sexist. On average, women get a whole lot less in retirement than men do under this flawed scheme.

    Trashing Bernardi's office did nothing to advance the socialist cause. It did everything to advance the conservative drive to turn Australia into a police State. So, you're right on that one.

    The negative gearing scheme which Comrade Bowen came up with is based on using the tax to redirect real estate investor spending toward new housing, as opposed to buying up old housing. It's better than nothing, but it will not solve the problems associated with speculators leaving 90,000 homes in Sydney and 80,000 in Melbourne vacant. They do this to drive the price of real estate up and they make money on it via the current tax laws. The average price for a home in Sydney is now a million dollars. Constantly rising home prices contradict base value of the home, which actually should reflect a declining price as automobiles do as they depreciate via wear and tear. The right wing pro-capitalist cabal now in charge of running the Labor Party will not solve the housing question.

    As for the mentally ill, they will never see their health issues taken seriously the way Medicare is run now with all its subsidies for private health businesses. No. The way to deal with this problem is to increase funding to public health to the point where mental illnesses are bulk billed perhaps funding this open access to medical care via cuts to privately commodified health care.

    As for your letter on Scott Morrison, I agree mostly. The reality is that the LNP as a whole will continue to cut taxes for the upper 10% and the companies they own funding these tax cuts through cuts to public health, education and welfare. As for the Christianity angle, remember that Jesus said that the poor will always be with us and for us to render unto the ruling class what is theirs. I'm sure Morrison would agree.

    As for aged care, the problem here is that it is a business. The care of poorer people who are aging is not profitable. They will continue to slide down the paywalls being subsidised by the government as long as the citizenry believe the pro-market political pablum being fed to them before they're in need a aged care.

    1. I agree with you, Mike. Super was only ever a neoliberal construct of putting the pension out for the market to play with. How generous of us.

  2. Thanks for writing, Mike ;

    Ideally I agree with you on superannuation as well ; including your observations about women. The problem is that there are political obstacles to reverting to the Aged Pension ; including the problem of raising tax sufficiently to cover... Perhaps the best we can do for now is to increase the Aged Pension significantly. (lets say $40/week to start) And ease means tests. That will broaden the base of support and participation re: the Aged Pension.

    As you observe Labor's negative gearing policy will encourage new housing as opposed to churning old housing. A good outcome. But how specifically (and realistically) do we deal with unoccupied housing? (maybe a tax?)

    Mental illness related life expectancy also demands specific programs in the same vein as the 'close the gap' programs for indigenous life expectancy.

    re: Christianity - the point is an appeal to the Conservatives - on the basis that 'Christian Democracy' (eg: European Conservatism) has not always been based on economic neo-liberalism. Convincing them to move on the economic and social justice front would be an advance for social justice...

    Again: re: Aged Care the market will not provide for the need out there... Only public initiatives can provide the quality care people need without the user pays. But it must focus on 'quality of life' indicators as well... Which is generally neglected under existing arrangements...