2019 Budget - Tax cuts and a surplus could come at a cost to those in need

4.04.19

The Federal Budget promised tax cuts and a return to surplus. However, UNSW Canberra academics have stressed that these promises could come at a cost to those who need it most.

UNSW Canberra Professor of Finance and Economics, Massimiliano Tani, said it was “definitely an election budget" and that the tax cuts were a cheap appeal to voters.

“In my personal view, voting for who gives you the most is not the best way to vote” Professor Tani said.

“It should be more about what we want this country to be, what sort of goals we want to achieve and what things are good in this country that we can bring to the rest of the world. At the end of the day, we want to be careful about who gives us the most, but it should not be the main reason of why we vote.”

Professor of Finance, Satish Chand, said Australians already pay less tax than countries such as UK, Denmark, Norway, France and Germany, however these countries have much better services provided by the public sector.

“When you have tax cuts they’re not for free, the tax cuts accompany less services being provided for by the public sector” Professor Chand said.

“There is a fascination with surpluses, but we have to remember that the job of government is to provide services, it is not to accumulate savings and it’s definitely not to be giving out cash handouts, particularly on the eve of the election.”

Professor of Public Service Research, Helen Dickinson, said a surplus comes at the expense of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

“One of the biggest savings that has helped the predicted budget surplus has come from an underspend on the NDIS of nearly $1.6 billion,” Professor Dickinson said.

“This is concerning to many in the sector as there are numerous accounts of the fact that this underspend is not because of lower demand, but because individuals are having difficulties accessing the scheme. Many within the disability sector will find it galling that 23% of the overall surplus comes from the NDIS at a time when many are struggling to get access to the scheme or are waiting significant amounts of time for services or equipment they have been promised.”

Professor Chand also said it was a concern that foreign aid has also been slashed by more than $115 million.

“In terms of strategic foresight, there isn’t much,” he said.

“Where do we want Australia to be 10, 20, 50 years down the track? There’s very little about climate change, there’s very little about being a generous neighbour or a generous global citizen. I don’t see much focus on the very disadvantaged amongst us, there are a group of people who have lived in poverty across generations. As a society, I think we want to do more to lift those people out of these traps.”

However, he said he didn’t expect to see much of a difference when Labor responds on Thursday.

“The shocking thing is the similarity in policies between the two major parties,” Professor Chand said.

“It will be more of the same - more budget surpluses, bigger tax cuts, larger handouts, I don’t think there will be much discussion about aid I don’t think there will be any large differences in terms of those issues between the two parties.”

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