Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Budget Night, A Bear's Perspective

As I prepare for the fifth Budget Night since I moved to Australia, I admit I am a bit excited.  I have snacks and drinks, and suitably soft yet satisfying things to throw at the television as the Treasurer delivers the budget to the not-so-interested nation.  (I fully admit to not liking this particular reality tv cast, and really wish the nation could go straight to the "voting them off the island" part of the season.) 

The Minister for Social Services has been teasing parts of the budget for a few days now.  And the Minister for Education says he's "fixed" the mess that was made of University funding and fees last year, but is irritatingly quiet about how he "fixed" it.  The rest of the budget team is falling all over themselves to convince the populace that this is a "dull" and uninteresting budget.  This kind of secretive hints, suspicious verbal "wink-winks" and the over-eagerness of the remaining Ministers to convince the world this is just a bunch of dull numbers, only leads the conspiracy theorist in me to think there are a binder full of cuts and "savings" that the average Australian will not like to be delivered tonight.  I am torn between wanting to remain blissfully ignorant of the plan and not wanting to miss the announcement of yet another colossal failure of an announcement.

By and large the Budget has no real effect on me, after all, I'm a bear.  But that does not mean I'm not interested.  My housemates have to deal with the changes brought on by the budget -- and I know they are still waiting for the $500 the government promised would be returned to all Australian households by repealing the Carbon Tax last year.  They complain often that their electric bills actually went UP after the Carbon Tax was repealed.  Still, I'm a politically interested and informed bear, and I like to know what was really said, rather than what the talking heads in the media want me to think was said.

So my day's work is done, my friends have turned to their books or other personal pursuits and I am ready for Budget Night 2015.

It's just about to start.  I still have time to turn over for MasterChef, but I'm pretty sure that would make my housemate as stabby and ragey as this Budget speech is likely to make me.  I've decided it would be so much nicer if the Minister for Education wasn't seated directly behind the Dispatch Box.  It's distracting enough to watch the smirk during Question Time; I'm going to have to try very hard to block it out tonight (and not waste my few projectiles on the smirk).

The weather report is just ending now -- rainy and windy tomorrow.  Ohh, my housemate may have trouble walking to and from the grocery.  Okay, we've just thrown to Canberra…  I really like the pomp and circumstance of the State of the Union better, when the President comes into the House.  There is something much more official and less work-a-day about that.

Interesting that the Prime Minister is sitting on the front bench and not at the table across from the Opposition Leader. 

I am speaking directly to the people of Australia.    
You should listen to them as well as speak to them.

The timetable back to surplus is unchanged since last year.     

First blaming of the previous government, and the mention of the "$96M borrowed everyday just to pay the bills."

Australians are paying less for their electricity and less on their mortgages.    

Defaulting doesn't count as paying less, Mr. Treasurer.

This budget gives Australians the opportunity and the freedom to participate in the workforce.    

But you're not funding training for the jobs.

The demand for our exports to China will continue to increase.    

Not if they can get those things cheaper from some other country.

It will add $50 billion to our economy every year.    

Again, not if the other countries can get the same things cheaper elsewhere.  Never build your budget on the actions of others not under your control.

This budget empowers small business to invest, grow and great jobs.    

Still no mention of training for those potential workers.

Every small business will get a tax cut.    

And what are your plans to recoup that lost tax revenue?

We are making it easier for small businesses to attract the employees they need.    

And yet, again, no mention of training for those potential workers.

Farmers are our very best environmentalists.    

You don't believe in climate change, so why does that matter enough to mention?

Farmers can deduct the cost of new fencing from their tax bills.    

Is this just another way to ensure our borders are tight?

The North needs new infrastructure in order to grow.    

Wow, you might have just realized there is more to the country than Sydney.

We want all Australians to be able to get a job and stay in a job.    
Subsidies are great, but you are still not funding training.

There will be no new taxes on superannuation in this budget.    

But you're not commenting on re-indexations or new fees that may be imposed.

The Medical Research Future Fund will distribute $4 million from the fund for research and development.    

But how are you funding it?  The co-pay plan was scratched.

We will commit $450 million to boosting intelligence capabilities.  We must have the best counter-terrorism capabilities available.    

That's why we need to keep all your metadata.

We want companies that are avoiding paying their taxes to pay their fair share. 

Because that will certainly encourage multi-nationals to move to Australia and employ more Australians.

Foreign business supplying digital products or services to Australians will be subject to GST.    

As if there is not already a premium on all goods and services imported to Australia.  It is actually cheaper to fly to San Francisco and purchase software there than it is to purchase it locally.

Every nation must live within its means.    

You keep saying that, Mr. Treasurer, but surely you realize national budgets are not like household budgets.  If they were, most countries would have been forced into involuntary bankruptcy several times over.

This is a budget that is responsible, measured, and fair.    

I know I say it a lot, but I don't think those words mean what you think they mean, Mr. Treasurer.

I do not think that was a "reading" of the bill.  I think that was a speech urging the passing of the bill.  When the Treasurer started by saying he was going to read the bill, I really thought he was going to read the bill, not a prepared speech in favor of the bill.

The Speaker finished by saying "the debate must be adjourned."  There was no debate.  It was a one-sided monologue.  It was a lecture.  And frankly, the professor needed to be called out for frank, glaring errors several times.

Now we're on to comment and discussion by the talking heads of the media.  Overall, it was an interesting speech, but I wonder at the math skills of the government.  There are plenty of announced tax invectives, but no real discussion of tax collections.  I am not sure from where the money for the announced plans will be coming.  I'm pretty sure the plan of getting multi-national companies to pay their "fair share" will not work the way the treasurer is hoping it will.

While the Budget Lecture neglected to mention that visas are going to get more expensive (another clue it was not a true "reading" of the bill), the analysis did not.  My housemate is an immigrant, and the price of a visa was very much a consideration for her.  This may be just another sneaky way to ensure the borders are secure.

During the newscast prior to the Budget Address there was a report of the NAPLAN testing, a national standardized test for students.  I think the government needs to prove they can pass the maths section without help, because I am really questioning their ability to add 2 + 2 and get 4.  Heck, I'm not even sure they can add 1 + 1 and get 2.

All right, that's it.  I'm sure I'll have more to say on the subject later, but for now I think I have to go bang my head against the wall for a while.  It will hurt less when I stop.  Besides, there is pumpkin pie for dessert.  Wait!  That's it.  We could use actual pies to explain the math to the government.  But I am not sharing my pumpkin pie.

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