BUDGET 2020: Opportunity missed

I WANT you to imagine for a moment that you’re the Treasurer. You’ve got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest to get through the pandemic, stimulate the recovery, and lay the groundwork for what comes next. What would you do?

I‘m asking this question because I think the Morrison Government missed a real opportunity with this Budget.

On the Labor side, we recognized the need for cooperation to pass some important measures. But we do have concerns – particularly as Parramatta and other parts of Western Sydney are some of the hardest hit by COVID-19 in the country.

Despite spending over $200B dollars during the pandemic and increasing debt to one trillion dollars, the Government is withdrawing support too early. This risks slowing our recovery – and there’s no real plan to invest in the future.

The Budget includes some generous support for businesses – but they can only get it if they’re in a strong enough position to employ new people and invest in new equipment.

Struggling businesses like travel agents, arts companies, bus companies, and restaurants are left to rely on JobKeeper, which has already been reduced and will be cut altogether in March.

Businesses that can hire will only receive the wage subsidies (JobMaker) and apprentice support for a maximum of one year.

Obvious places to invest public money for long term gains like social housing, aged care, and childcare – what has become known as the ‘Care Economy’ – are missing from the mix, as is the fastest-growing group of people on unemployment benefits, women over 50. And there is nothing to address climate change, or insecure work, or to reverse savage cuts to the public sector.

Donate and Deliver

Meanwhile, in our community, more and more people are putting their shoulders to the wheel to donate and deliver food to the many people left out altogether like international students, temporary and skilled visa holders.

Soon they’ll be joined by the over 12,000 people in the Parramatta electorate relying on unemployment support, which will revert to $40 a day on January 1.

And who knows how many of the estimated 30,000+ local workers on JobKeeper will need relief when their payments are cut a few months later?

There are some that will be helped by the budget, but I fear for the many once-viable businesses that have been effectively shut down; families that had been financially solid, now facing increasing debt; and residential property investors facing the real loss of rental income.

I really hope that this plan to drive growth by encouraging businesses to employ and invest in this rather uncertain time works. I really do.

But there could have been so much more. There is nothing in the budget that is a surprise. No vision to re-shape our economy or communities. It really is business as usual – just on a bigger scale – and these are not normal times

So – if you were the Treasurer how would you invest to build the community, society, and economy that you want your children to grow up in?

I’ve added a survey to my website asking this question, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please scan the QR code on the left and let me know what you think.

By Julie Owens, Federal Federal Member for Parramatta.

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