It would be nice to believe, as the Treasurer wants us to, that better times are just around the corner, writes John Falzon. But while wages stagnate and company profits surge, inequality is now at its highest point since the 1950s.
This is clearly not going to get any better any time soon. By 2019, the highest income earners will have received an effective tax cut of 1.5 per cent compared to all other taxpayers who will be paying an extra 0.5 per cent. But for the young people of Australia especially, Budget 2017 boosts inequality instead of building a better future.
Corporate tax cuts at the same time as penalty rate cuts and cuts to social services and social security to the tune of $15 billion since 2014 will not help young people into jobs. Neither will the imposition of behavioural sticks on the backs of the unemployed, which only serve to distract us from the existence of structural walls that keep them excluded.
To those in the government who pretend that the solution to unemployment lies in putting the boot into the unemployed, let me state the bleeding obvious: There is only one job for every ten people looking for work or more work. One in three young people are unemployed or underemployed. We have a Newstart payment that has not seen an increase in real terms since 1994.
These measures are another iteration of the government’s ideological obsession with attacking and demonising people who are excluded from the labour market.
For those of us who stand in solidarity with the people who are targeted and degraded in this budget this is just one chapter in the long-haul struggle to build a more just and compassionate society.
And our struggle may be long, but it is beautiful. We believe with all our hearts that hope will win against humiliation and that deep respect between people will triumph over the mean-spirited abuse of power that accompanies the rise of inequality.
Dr John Falzon is Chief Executive of the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council.
Hope versus humiliation in the Federal Budget (Eureka Street)