The budget deficit

The Morrison Government has handed down a budget they’ve called the most significant since WWII; except if you’re a woman, an unemployed person over the age of 35, an older person in residential care, a person in need of social housing, or if you’re the environment or the ABC, then you’re probably feeling short changed or outright neglected by it.

This is a budget, Tim Colebatch declared, that business wanted, at least the businesses that are assured of survival and are looking to grow, rather than a budget that economists would have designed.

This is a budget obsessed with creating jobs, although there’s no indication that the Government cares what kind of jobs are created.  A job that is low paying, insecure and with a precarious future is still a job.  Michael Janda noted that in his budget speech Josh Frydenberg said “jobs” 37 times.  He never once mentioned “careers”.

If you’re a woman then you already know that your gender has borne the brunt of the pandemic, both in the loss of jobs and hours, and the impact to your unpaid work at home.  The Grattan Institute has graphed the budgeted stimulus spending against the industries hardest hit by the pandemic, and well, it’s not pretty:

The only gender specific spending in the $600B budget was $240 million reserved for the “Women’s Economic Security Statement”.  One third of 1% of the budget was dedicated to encouraging women to be entrepreneurs and engineers; or otherwise, be more like men.  There are no programs or policies to support the jobs that women actually do.

And now older women are emerging as the face of the unemployed in Australia,and the Government still has not made a decision in regards to raising the rate of the JobSeeker payment before the now reduced pandemic supplement to the payment is due to expire at the end of the year, driving everyone on JobSeeker back below the poverty line:

If the unemployed are driven into homelessness trying to subsist on $40 a day, they’re out of luck because as well as there being no stimulus spending for social housing in this budget, the Government is cutting $41.3 million from homelessness services from July 2021.

While the Government has budgeted $1.6 billion for 23,000 extra home care packages, that still leaves 102,000 people waiting for assistance.

According to Crikey, “the ABC’s general operational activities will fall from $939 million in 2019-20 to $898 million in 2020-21. In general, spending on public broadcasting is set to fall 0.7% from 2019-20 to 2020-21, and by 3.7% between now and 2023-24. Even a big spending budget leaves little for the Coalition’s traditional enemies.”

There’s money for its ideological allies though. The gas industry will receive $52.9 million to help strengthen the industry and unlock new gas reserves, as part of the Government’s “gas fired recovery”, which seems intent on baking fossil fuels into our economy for decades, just when we need to drastically reduce emissions.

The Government has crafted a budget to support Australia’s recovery from the pandemic induced crisis it’s in, but it’s also a budget oddly lacking in a long term vision for the country.  Mark Kenny asks

Do we just want the same economy/society back again? One which floats on cheap, precarious and simply unpaid female labour in aged care, childcare, home care and beyond? An economy manifestly not geared to the clean future required.

The pandemic has offered a once in a century opportunity to revolutionise Australia, and create a fundamental shift away from an emissions-based way of life to one that is more balanced; more sustainable; more equitable; and full of opportunity… and in its budget the Government failed to grasp this opportunity.

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