Brakes on the Omnibus

17 February 2017

THE problem with the Federal Government’s so-called “omnibus bill” is that it will run over too many families.

That’s why, with my NXT colleagues, we told the Government this week that it had to park the bus for a while.

To start afresh — to come up with alternatives to the $5.6 billion the Government is seeking to cut from vulnerable, low-income families.

It’s about fairness.

A family on a shared income of $75,000 would be about $1000 a year worse off with cuts to family tax benefits. A single parent with one child in high school aged 17 would be over $3000 a year worse off.

The proposed cuts are too harsh, too deep, for too many battling Australians.

Across the country, up to two million people would be affected.

I get it that Treasurer Scott Morrison is worried about debt and deficit. He’s worried about losing Australia’s rare and coveted AAA credit rating and what that means to interest rate and debt.

And I get it, Social Services Minister Christian Porter and SA senator and Education Minister Simon Birmingham are keen to roll out the one big sweetener in the package — $1.6 billion in extra childcare funding over the next four years.

But we had to put the brakes on the omnibus bill because too many Australians, battling to make ends meet, would’ve been hurt.

And we think the Government has its priorities wrong.

Giving big banks and mega corporations a big tax cut would cost the economy up to $50 billion over the next 10 years — that could and should be delayed to improve the budget bottom line.

And the Government needs to double down on multinational tax avoidance. We should ask why Google and Facebook, with more than $3.2 billion in revenue here between them, are paying a fraction of what an Australian company would be paying.

And I think it’s fair to suggest for those fortunate enough to be earning over $100,000 a year to pay just a little more — between 0.25 to 0.5 per cent in the Medicare levy to help fund the underfunded NDIS.

As The Advertiser’s Tory Shepherd put it recently, the Government’s linking of cuts to welfare for paying for the NDIS is like saying “pass the Bill or the kid in the wheelchair gets it”.

Here in Canberra, where I’m writing this column, the reaction to the decision we made has been furious in some quarters.

The eastern-states media has gone ballistic, resorting to abuse of me (which I guess is part of the job) and outrageously describing SA as a “backwater state” and saying “if not for wealthier states that actually drive the national economy, South Australia would be just one big Centrelink queue”.

In fact, the editor of a major eastern-state daily even had the gall to tweet what he said was the new SA Tourism ad. Click on the link he provided and you’re delivered to a grungy song called, wait for it … F---wit City. Seriously?

Is that what our founding fathers of the Federation had in mind when the colonies got together 116 years ago to become the Commonwealth of Australia? I don’t think so.

As Aristotle said, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. That’s what our Federation is all about.

And right now, there are parts of the omnibus bill that don’t add up for families, not just in our state but across the nation.

That’s why I’ll ignore the hysteria and insults and do what you’re paying me and my colleagues for — to strongly represent SA in the Parliament, to get a fair outcome, not just for SA’s interests but for the nation’s interest.

 

This opinion piece was published in the Adelaide Advertiser on Friday 17 February 2017.

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