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icymi: budget 2016

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Winners and losers: it’s a dichotomy Treasurer Scott Morrison wants to ditch when Australians discuss the Turnbull Government’s Federal Budget for 2016-17. He’d prefer to talk about jobs and growth. But Scott Morrison has too much privilege to tell us how to speak about this Budget.

The fact of the matter is, if you are not a cis-gendered, white, heterosexual male – particularly a middle class one who may very well own a small to medium enterprise – Budget 2016-17 is still wanting for you. Significant wage gaps see all cuts hit feminine-identifying people hard, with people who are part of the queer community, disabled, a person of colour, or all of these at once impacted hardest. There are few benefits for us non cis het white men. Before we get into the nitty gritty of citizens’ problems, it’s worth noting it’s not just Australians who miss out: a further $200 million will be cut from foreign aid under the Coalition.

Tax cuts for middle income earners have been heralded by this government to feign desire for upwards social mobility. Women and other groups marginalised by their identity will not benefit from the middle income tax bracket going up from $80,000 to $87,000. Appropriating a sentiment of the former Liberal Leader Tony Abbott to express distaste for this economic policy, Destroy the Joint co-founder Jenna Price notes: ‘Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison delivered a budget for businesswomen of calibre.’ The tax threshold changes will only affect 25 per cent of the working population and it’s the top earners at that. If you consider that is a measly 20 per cent of women (though some commentators, notably on the ABC’s The Drum, cite this is as little as 14 per cent) in comparison with 30 per cent of men, it shows further disparity.

A win did come in the form of the Government retaining a tax offset for Australia’s poorest 3.4 million workers – you guessed it, largely non-cis het white men – who earn less than $37,000 per year. This policy, the Low Income Super Tax Offset, will see up to $500 put into these individuals’ accounts and a means to stop their tax exceeding their superannuation. It’s important as women at this level of income retire with a nest egg that is 45 per cent lower than men.

There are some things the Government did not shout about as loudly – even Morrison, whose volume seems permanently set to +997969 decibels in parliament. Working parents, most notably mums, are still left waiting for the full paid parental leave scheme promised by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott. The initiative’s stagnation – as part of a much delayed $40 billion broad families policy – has seen some serious shade thrown by commentators such as The Project’s Carrie Bickmore. Put simply: if your bub was born on the eve of the 2013 Federal Election, you’ve waited through their teething pains and that of the Abbott-Turnbull Government’s over this one.  Meanwhile, there is also disappointment from many that the Jobs for Families Child Care Assistance Package will not come in until 2018 itself.

For any queer Australian wishing to simply marry the person they love, the Turnbull Government thinks they have your back. As opposed to allowing the Parliament to simply vote on the matter, the Government has ensured your view shall be voted on by the populous for the possibility of it becoming law… in a highly costly and discriminatory manner. A sum of $160 million dollars has made it to Budget – as discussions over recent months have indicated – for a marriage equality plebiscite. What makes this future spend extra stinky is Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek introduced a marriage equality bill to the Parliament very recently which would mean $160 million could go to better causes (e.g. the Safe Schools Coalition) if only a conscience vote was allowed for the Liberal-National Coalition.

Perhaps one of the most sinister measures is a 30 per cent cut to Community Legal Centres across the country. From July 1, 2017, state and territory governments will be required to deliberate on how to pass on these measures to gut CLCs. They bridge gaps between the privilege of being able to afford your own lawyer and being so poor you meet a strict Legal Aid means and merits test for help with an area of law the organisation will actually act upon. As pay gaps have already been noted, it makes a lot of sense who is fronting CLCs for assistance and who has lost out on this one. CLCs largely deal with family law matters including domestic violence which has their national body questioning this government’s commitment to tackling the issue.

The Aboriginal Legal Service will also experience a $6 million cut. As such, the Turnbull Government is denying Aboriginal people culturally sensitive representation, advice and advocacy amid other discrimination leading to a disproportionate number of arrests, incarcerations and so-called child protection cases.

A $100 million Turnbull Government investment in measures to combat family violence over three years pales in comparison to a monumental $572 million over the next two years by the Andrews Labor Government in Victoria. Missing in this was an allocation for a women and children’s safety program as many advocates had hoped. It is also worth noting this $100 million does not include legal assistance funding. The Turnbull Government’s figure equates to a meagre $36 million per year – a sum well below the $200 million per year boost recommended by the Royal Commission into Family Violence. To put it in perspective, this government spends around $40 million per year on unused office space.

Women and other marginalised groups are still awaiting economic leadership that will not see them treated as less than.

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