Blocking the budget

After a crisis meeting of Australia’s state and territory leaders, both the left and right wing look set to work together to block the Abbott Government’s first Federal Budget. The leaders who attended the meeting have warned that they will not be able to absorb the $80 billion in cuts to health and education funding over the next decade, saying that it will force the states to cut services.

South Australia’s Labor Premier Jay Weatherill says all leaders are united in their rejection of the budget. “What the Commonwealth did the other day in the budget is … they decided to push something across the table to us,” he said. “Well, we’re pushing it right back to them.”

Mr Weatherill has warned that the funding cuts to South Australia will force the state to cut back on the equivalent of one public hospital. Meanwhile, Tasmania’s Liberal Premier Will Hodgeman has warned that health funding for his state will mean a cut equivalent to 59 hospital beds or over 5000 surgical operations.

The only state or territory leader who did not attend yesterday’s meeting in Sydney was Western Australia’s Premier, Colin Barnett.

The budget is also being rejected by Australia’s voters. A Fairfax-Nielsen nationwide poll has shown that, on a two party preferred basis, the ALP has taken a 12 percentage point lead over the Coalition, with Labor sitting at 56 and the Coalition dropping to 44. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has also jumped to an 11 point lead over Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister, the first time his popularity has risen above Mr Abbott’s. Nielsen pollster John Stirton said of the results, “Mr Abbott trails the Opposition Leader as preferred prime minister after just eight months in office, faster than any of his predecessors with the exception of Paul Keating, who started out behind.”

A lack of fairness has been cited as one of the main reasons Australians are unhappy with this budget, and this concern has been vindicated, when an independent analysis of the budget, undertaken by the Australian National University, found that high income earners would not necessarily be required to pull their weight. The results showed that some well-paid couples would only be 0.9 per cent worse-off, whereas a single parent on payments with a six-year-old child could lose more than 10 per cent of their income.

Read more about this study at The Age website

Find out more about the premiers’ crisis meeting at the ABC News website

Read more about the poll results at the Herald Sun website

Opinion: Those who can least afford it

With anti-budget protests occurring in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Hobart yesterday, and crowd numbers as high as 10,000, I’m not surprised to hear that the Coalition Government’s popularity has taken a nosedive.

No matter what Treasurer Joe Hockey claims about all of us taking a hit, and feeling the pain together as a nation, it is those who can least afford it who are losing most from this budget. Pensioners, young families, anyone on welfare, anyone who needs to see a doctor, anyone who thought their kids would be able to afford to go to university without signing themselves up for a lifetime of debt… the list goes on. The two-year budget levy being applied to those who earn over $180,000 is a token gesture at best, and freezing politician salaries for just one year, in a show of ‘fairness’, is about as fair as a kick in the teeth.

The Coalition Government may have been able to sneak some of these budget measures past if they had spread them over the next three budgets. But such dramatic cuts being brought in all at once were bound to have the nation up-in-arms, so I’m not sure why Mr Abbott seems surprised at Australia’s reaction. It does make you wonder what they are planning for the next budget, if this is the precedent they’re setting.

What do you think? Are these budget measures unfair? Should the Senate block the budget, or are we becoming a nation which never moves forward because the Government is never allowed enough power to make any changes?