A Budget Reply from a Frustrated Voter

When I started writing I promised myself I would follow a few simple rules. Don’t write nasty things about people, first and foremost. And don’t post about religion or politics, or anything else you wouldn’t discuss at a dinner party – it always ends in 15 minutes of notoriety or a barrage of abuse. I want neither.

In this post I may break all of those rules. I apologise in advance if I do.

There has been a great deal of discussion this week about the budget, and a great deal of rhetoric from disappointed parties. It has been pretty nasty on both sides, but that is fairly representative of Australian politics at the moment. It saddens me that I would sooner let my children watch a Mad Max video than Question Time from our nation’s parliament. There is far less bloodshed in Mad Max and at least there was a point to it.

What has surprised me is the continuing and deepening level of vitriol that is coming from the voters of this country. Since the early 1990’s this has gradually been reaching a crescendo and I wonder if we will ever have a prime minister who garners the respect of the voters in their majority again. Politicians have become people we tolerate behind eye rolls rather than leaders we look to who provide a vision of our country’s future direction. There is so much noise it is difficult to pinpoint what anyone truly believes in anymore. And the media, mainstream and otherwise, is very happy to muddy the waters.

I know it won’t amount to a whole hill of beans, but out of pure frustration I have written my own budget reply.

Dear Mr Abbott,

I voted for you and I fundamentally believe in the same economic principles as you do. We should be on the same page when it comes to the budget, but I have to admit I am disappointed. I don’t know why really – you had foreshadowed most of the elements to it as politicians do in order to minimise the disappointment spawned from shock.

There are some things I like. I am a big fan of your version of the paid parental leave system. I believe it is high time women are recognised in the corporate world and I think this is a good start. More comprehensive child care assistance would be the next logical step, but at least this starts the conversation. Women who work to climb the corporate ladder, (or whichever ladder they choose), in the same way as their male counterparts should not be as severely disadvantaged as they currently are when they make a return to the workforce. Monetary compensation will not change the world, but it could quietly produce a cultural revolution whereby the value of working women is far better recognised. At the same time we have to remember that it is a choice for men and women to choose to have families and to establish their own working routines and there needs to be some balance – perhaps a shorter time frame for leave entitlements would achieve this. I understand and support the economic factors that drove this policy. It’s not a perfect policy, and to be honest I’m not sure we can afford it right now, but it is a good one in my opinion.

There are some things I agree with in principle but question the method of delivery of. I do agree that the welfare system needs an overhaul, but I don’t think your budget does it in a fair way. I was in agreence when you announced the policy to make changes to the dole some time ago, but I was expecting to see a cap on what school leavers to receive in order to combat generational unemployment. For all young people to be denied access to benefits if they are under 30 for six months seems cruel. You cast too wide a net. A work for the dole scheme could also be employed, or you could spend more money on providing access to qualifications for early school leavers.

Some things I am just confused about – I fail to understand how something as small as a one million dollar line item made it into the budget announcement at all, let alone one as obscure as the funding package for the Australian Ballet School. This seems disorganised and I’m struggling to see the purpose in it.

And then there are the little things that annoy me greatly. The school chaplains program is one example. Okay, I know this is relatively immaterial, but this feels wrong to me. I have no issue with your religion. Many times in my life I have wished I had the faith in something, (anything), that you do. I have no opinion and form no judgement based on a person’s religious convictions. But to put aside millions of dollars for this purpose when the budget is ‘necessarily mean’ in order to reduce debt seems more like a personal crusade than a focussed budget item aimed at improving the lives of Australians. I’m disappointed in this because when you became prime minister, after I and many other Australians voted for you, I believed you when you said your religion dictated many of your values but would not influence policy. I feel cheated on this and I am not sure I can trust you anymore. I think it’s wrong to push religion – any religion – on school kids. Let them make up their own minds.

The failure to really overhaul the tax system – that would have been brave. Not election winning, but courageous, and a policy befitting the leader of this country. Axing negative gearing, changing the GST and income tax levels; I know you promised not to, but these are the things that need doing eventually and I have been eagerly awaiting a leader that would do the mundane things and do them well and stop promising bells and whistles.

Personally, I never really expected you to follow through on your election promises. Most politicians don’t. I’m okay with that because I vote based on how closely my values and philosophies align with the various parties. It should bother me more than it does but my expectations are so low at this point I have a sense of apathy about it. Which is pretty pathetic really.

I’m fairly pragmatic and in the absence of any real distinction on social policy I usually vote with my head based on economic philosophy. But In many ways your budget has me flummoxed. The ALP has been accused of losing focus in recent years, of sacrificing vision to quell the disagreements within. While you don’t suffer from the same factional disturbances I am afraid your party may be headed in the same direction. I am also afraid that the corporate sector will join the trade unions as lobbyists that wield altogether too much power for the number of individuals they speak on behalf of. While we are all sharing in the burden of your promised return to surplus it appears the corporate sector is relatively unscathed.

As an economic liberalist I believe in the most good for the greatest number of people – help those who truly need it and incentivise the greater population to achieve high levels of productivity which in the end helps everyone. I’m beginning to feel, however, that I am more of an economic idealist than anything else.

But here’s the thing. This budget lacks vision. It’s what I have been craving for years on the Australian political landscape. It’s what I believed you could do despite the negativity of the last few years in Australian politics. But this lacks foresight and guts. In recent years our prime ministers have been hamstrung by their electoral promises and their factional loyalties and I fear this budget is no different. The people of this country deserve better.

 

From a very frustrated voter.

 

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