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Issue #1684      May 13, 2015


Around 9.5 million Australians paid tax in 2012-2013 according to tax statistics released last week. Two thirds of the tax was paid by Australians who earned $80,000 or more. More than one quarter was paid by those earning $180,000 or more. You’d expect the people who are the highest earners to pay accordingly as well. Not so. Fifty-five of Australia’s highest earners paid no income tax at all, not even the Medicare levy. All these people earn at least $1 million but with the helpful (and very expensive) tax advisors they manage to write down their taxable incomes to below the tax-free threshold which is $18,200. Says a lot about their willingness to contribute to society. Not very far removed from another group of public leaners – multinational corporations which go into fits when they hear the word “tax”. Guess who’d be called welfare cheats, free loaders, leaners etc by the government around budget time. Not their friends in high places, I don’t think.

It’s going to be stormy over Canberra. Public servants at the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) are planning to deny weather forecasts to Canberra airport at times when the politicians are coming to the capital and leaving it. MPs, their staff and lobbyists descend on Canberra airport on the Tuesday morning of each Parliamentary sitting week. They leave on Thursday to go back to where they come from. The BoM technicians are planning to withhold weather information from airlines and air traffic controllers to inconvenience politicians without putting safety or commerce at risk. They hope their action will sharpen the politicians’ minds on the fact that the BoM’s 1,700-strong workforce has had no pay rise since June 2013. Their enterprise agreement expired nine months ago and there is no fresh offer.

Queensland Education Minister Kate Jones has warned that the Abbott government would cut $30 billion from school funding nationally over four years. Public schools are already struggling to provide decent education on shrinking budgets. The situation is greatly aggravated by a threefold increase in the number of students with autism spectrum disorders. It is not clear why autism spectrum has become so widespread but it has. States demand more federal funding as they are carrying the burden of educating children with mental health issues and learning disorders. NSW has the largest public school system which deals with 14,000 students on the autism spectrum – a 160 percent increase since 2008. In WA public schools the number of autistic children is 4,000, a three-fold increase in 8 years. In Queensland the figure is 12,709 students. In South Australia 9 percent of public school students have a diagnosed disability. In Victoria it is one in six. Three-quarters of disabled students are educated in mainstream classrooms. The federal government allocated $5.2 billion to help schools cater for students with disability and learning disorders between 2014 and 2017. This is not enough. Early intervention is extremely important in helping children with disabilities to develop. Proper funding is the least the government can do.

Next article – REGION BRIEFS

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