Friday, March 7, 2008

The Honeymoon Is Over

The news that the Federal Government has refused to deny plans to scrap the carer’s bonus payments has caused an enormous outcry. It follows the earlier news that the Medicare rebate introduced last year for some dental treatment will also be scrapped. These are just two programs to fall victim to the so called Rudd Government Razor Gang in the quest to curb government spending and drive down inflation. Whatever the reasons or the explanations, the people who voted Kevin Rudd into office will find this to be very hard to accept.

While it is true that inflation must be nipped in the bud, and part of the approach to doing that is for the government to be fiscally responsible, there seems to be an obsession with the focus on inflation which is distracting the government from all else. Inflation is not being caused by aged pensioners buying plasma TVs or disability carers buying imported cars. To take away what little they have is to punish the innocent. It is a slap in the face for people who might have voted for this government in the hope of a better deal.

It is also true that the carer bonus was never an ongoing program, but simply a one-off payment which was made repeatedly due to the favourable circumstances of a big budget surplus. Well, the surplus this year is set to be even bigger, and as far as old age pensioners, disability support pensioners and carers are concerned, all the talk about 1.5% of GDP and fighting inflation is just gobbledy-gook. All they know is that they can’t afford to buy decent food or fill up the car because it’s so hard to make ends meet. All they know is that they will not receive as much as $1600 which they have received for the past four years. All they know is that the government they have elected is letting them down.

The other important point to recognize is the fact that carers make a huge contribution to the economy. Carer’s keep disabled people in their homes and out of institutions, saving the taxpayer untold billions of dollars. It’s a worthwhile investment helping them to continue doing that.

If Kevin Rudd, and Wayne Swan, and Jenny Macklin, take this payment away now after four years, whatever the economic justification, they’ll be the bad guys. It’s not enough to blame John Howard’s reckless spending, because the electorate just won’t buy it. If this is the best they can do, then the honeymoon is already over.

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