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Issue #1642      June 11, 2014

Bust the Budget

Policies for the People

The main thrust of the 2014-15 federal budget is the transfer of wealth from working people into the pockets of the rich and big corporations, in particular to the mining and banking/finance sectors. In the name of “smaller government” and dishonest claims of a “budget emergency”, the budget sets out to gut social welfare and public services, demolish the public service, deregulate the operations of big business and to privatise what remains of public assets.

If passed the budget would cause untold pain and suffering, drive millions of Australians into poverty, boost the ranks of the unemployed and homeless and drive the economy into recession. The budget must be defeated and replaced by a progressive program of spending and revenue raising that protects our planet and improves the life of the people.

The Communist Party of Australia puts forward the following policies as the core of such a program:

Health – Universal access to bulk billing (no fee at point of service) for medical services, including full dental and mental health coverage, and greater emphasis on preventative health and aged care services.

Increase funding to public hospitals and provide the unemployed, age pensioners and other concession cardholders with free scripts. Reduce the fees for all other people and renegotiate low prices with Big Pharma for medications.

Education – Education is a human right and its provision a responsibility of government. Free, secular and universal public education from pre-school through to TAFE and university. The apprenticeship system should be restored with apprentices guaranteed appropriate work and adult wage plus allowances for tools, books, clothing, etc. Increase funding to improve resources, increase teacher numbers, ensure adequate salary increases and end contractual employment and exploitation of casuals.

Housing – A massive program of construction of public housing which offers affordable accommodation and puts downward pressure on private rental markets, as well as creating jobs.

Planning – A national plan for the development of the Australian economy on an environmentally sustainable basis. This includes re-regulation of key financial instruments (interest rates, currency, foreign investment, flow of capital in and out of Australia, etc) and development of a strong manufacturing sector.

Public sector – Expansion and extension of public sector is central to the planning of economic development and job creation and training. Reversal of privatisation of major public enterprises, new infrastructure to be built and operated by the public sector.

Jobs – Job creation programs in line with the national plan (as against “leaving it to the markets”) with particular emphasis on the public sector including expansion and improvement of public transport, public housing, renewable energy sources and other infrastructure.

Financial regulation – A national investment policy that would outlaw control of the national economy by foreign investors and provide strict control over the movement of money in and out of the country and restoration of control of interest rates, credit policy and currency exchange rates.

Environment – Additional funding invested in sustainable, renewable energy projects, desalination, restoration of dying river systems and other projects to reduce Australia’s emissions of greenhouse gases and repair the huge damage that has already been done through reckless land and water use.

Social welfare – Remove the anomalies between different types of benefit by raising lower rates to the highest level. An immediate increase of $50 per week to this rate. End the stringent testing and harassing of recipients and redirect government resources to genuine support for the unemployed.

Index all pensions and benefits in line with male full-time weekly earnings. Restore payments to single parents. Immediate access to benefits for the unemployed. Abolish means and assets testing for age pension and provide access at age 65.

Child care – Expand public and community provision of childcare with an increase in assistance of up to 100 percent of fees for those on lowest incomes.

Asylum seekers – The immediate cessation of the mandatory detention policy. No offshore detention. Limit the holding of refugees in centres to the time necessary to process applications for refugee status. No children to be held in detention centres under any circumstances.

Taxation – Restructure the marginal rates on personal income tax system so that those on high incomes contribute at a far higher rate. Abolition of GST which is a flat, regressive tax.

National Superannuation Scheme – Create a national superannuation scheme that workers could join on a voluntary basis and roll over existing funds. This scheme would be government-guaranteed, members would receive a defined benefit – a regular fortnightly payment on retirement for the rest of their life.

People’s Bank – Set up a national public insurance company and People’s Bank with strong social charters (including low or no-fee services) putting downward pressure on private banks and insurance companies, making home loans and insurance coverage cheaper for people, small business and farmers.

Funding the people’s budget

  • Address tax avoidance schemes such as negative gearing, export of profits offshore to tax havens, and end the massive tax concessions for the rich rorting the superannuation system.
  • Increase company tax rate to at least 36 cents in dollar (instead of reducing it to 28.5 cents).
  • Impose a genuine super profits tax, not just for mining companies, but the big banks, insurance companies, investment houses and other corporations.
  • Phase out government funding of private schools, universities and colleges.
  • Reduce Australia’s bloated military budget, initially by 10 percent, and review future spending to bring it into line with what is required for Australia’s defence (as against offensive capacity) and humanitarian regional and domestic responsibilities (eg tsunamis, floods, earthquakes, etc).
  • Phase out the private health insurance rebate which is nothing more than a subsidy to an otherwise unsustainable private hospital system.
  • Investment of funds from national superannuation scheme in public housing and other public infrastructure projects such as transport and renewable energy production.
  • Industry and retail superannuation funds obliged to invest a minimum of five percent of their investments in public infrastructure.
  • Income and low interest loans to government from the People’s Bank.
  • End government subsidies to mining sector, including the fossil fuel rebate.

Economically the above demands are not unrealistic but they cannot be achieved without a fundamental change in the political direction of Australian politics. Bust the Budget mass mobilisations are just the beginning of the struggle to defeat the anti-people agenda of big business. To achieve such policies, a government of a new type, committed to the interests of the people is required – a government closely linked with the people’s mass movements and struggles. It means building a united movement of left and progressive forces, of the trade unions, environmental, peace, education and community groups prepared to put people’s interests and the planet before those of big business profits.

Next article – Editorial – Two mates dance the same tune

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