What goes around comes around

After much debate over the latest ‘work for the dole’ scheme and attending Nobel Laureate Prof. Joseph Stiglitz’s ‘Income Inequality’ lecture I thought it timely to revisit the concept of lifting vs. leaning. I touched on this in an earlier post.

Anti-narcissism

For right winged liberal capitalists, time on earth is typically measured by a key metric, money. How much can I make, how fast can I make it and how can I use it to improve my living standards.

Consider a collectivist notion of thinking about other people. Perhaps supporting your partner, family or children. Statistics prove that we are ALL going to need to rely on welfare at some point in our lives. Whether we become ill, need time off work to grieve or grow old – welfare is a social functioning instrument that can be described perfectly by the old saying ‘what goes around comes around’.

The launch of Superannuation by Keating in 1992 was a masterstroke by the Labor Government.  Mandatory savings that can be accessed upon retirement.  If only we all saved a little extra that could be accessed when we needed time off work , were grieving, had fallen ill etc too? I know I used a huge chunk of savings when I was sick for while.  Then we really wouldn’t need welfare!

Work, more than just an income

After studying ‘Work and employment’ copious amounts of research proved that work fuels social cohesion and reduces anti-social behaviour. Having routine, discipline, respecting authority, exercising the mind, having daily contact with a variety of different people all maintain a level of emotional health otherwise unattainable from choosing your own adventure each day.

The recent budget delivery proved labour productivity was key to maintaining our high living standards in Australia. Yes from an economic perspective, but from a social perspective it also is keeping people off the streets and mentally stimulated. Most of the homeless people you will meet have low emotional wellbeing. It’s all too often forgotten that such a huge component of our makeup as people is mental, as well as physical.

I support Tony Abbott’s new work for the dole scheme and believe it is a strategic policy making initiative not aimed at reducing the amount of leaners to reduce the tax burden but also to improve their overall wellbeing. Work is VIP beyond the fact that you earn money and pay taxes to support the community!

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Breaking the cycle

Statistics show that intergenerational poverty is rife. Many perpetuate the characteristics of the people and environments they grow up in and it can be hard to break the cycle. University in Australia is currently accessible by most thanks to a policy that ensures repayments are only made once you earn a reasonable salary. However, statistics have shown that those accepted into university have typically had a stable upbringing and are financially secure and therefore access is not representative of the diverse socio cultural make up of Australia.

Growing up in whatever environment you may find yourself in naturally causes a bias. I grew up very privileged and before I was educated enough in the area of sociology, assumed that there were those who chose to work hard to make a living and those who lived off those who worked hard. I honestly feel like a spoiled brat when I venture out to some areas of Sydney. There are people trying to scramble together money for bread and milk and I’m over here planning my next cocktail night and trip to NYC. And yet here many of us are wishing we could trade places? Working is more appealing than relying on welfare after all…

So how can we all run the same race?

Society and its diverse backgrounds need to be better represented at a policy making level via Politicians and Government representatives. If we embody the true values of democracy for example, we would see politicians in Australia encompassing a variety of ages, genders, cultures and backgrounds. I see a trend toward middle aged, caucasian middle class male politicians.

Did you know that 1% of the population in the US earn 25% of the total income? Financial speculation and making money without the production and consumption of goods and services also takes its toll on a well oiled economy. Perhaps taxes may increase for this type of income ?

Government’s can also focus their efforts on collecting the vast array of unpaid taxes, before developing new taxes. Think of speeding tickets = fair’s fair! We are only incentivised not to speed to save our own lives and those of others, when we bend the rules we pay. Or fuel taxes, those who consume the most petrol pay the most tax that can then be attributed to supporting investment in roads. Which is one pricey business. Taxing savings and income incentivises people not to save or work… So creative policymaking comes into play.

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Social functioning spend

Or “the budget” as most of us may be familiar with.  I touched on this in an earlier post as I have now entered the world of taking an interest in “the budget”. It really isn’t branded appropriately because what the budget aims to do is increase social cohesion, or functioning.  That is, the reduction in anti social behaviour (largely crime related) and increased welfare of citizens.

I was privileged to attend the NSW budget briefing delivered by the NSW treasury secretary and what an inspiring man.  Treasury have a pretty tough job – keeping millions of people happy through maintaining our living standards through effective fiscal planning!  He said if he could summarise the FY15 budget in a sentence, it would be through Ross Gittins’ (SMH economics editor) remark the new Premier ‘Mike Baird is nothing if not game. His first budget as Premier is a model of fiscal rectitude.’.  The >$60b tax payer funded fiscal plan takes us through to a surplus, which is ideal to maintain our strong economy.

Protecting and supporting fellow Australians

The NSW Government has said it will invest heavily in:

  • Child protection “Keeping them safe reform” – which is a sound strategy as a supportive childhood often leads to increased wellbeing as an adult.  Which in turn produces labour that is productive and enhances economic stability therefore leading to increased wellbeing due to sufficient living standards.
  • National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) – ensuring that those who are less able have greater choice as part of their care plans. This scheme also seeks to support carers in their quest to support themselves and others.
  • Home owners grant extension – likely due to promote property ownership which in turn leads to greater labour productivity through motivating citizens to work to pay off their mortgage.  In turn, also creating a more stable lifestyle ensuring adequate housing and a potential profit making asset when sold to downsize upon retirement, or later enter an aged care facility.  The ageing population, as a result of the Baby Boomers post WWII, will put pressure on resource allocation through increased demand for aged care facilities, more health services and increases in welfare / pension distribution and reduced labour productivity.

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Revenue sources

  • Payroll tax reductions – ensuring revenue can be raised from a variety of sources and that low income earners see increased take home pay as the cost of living continues to rise.  In ACT for example, Land Tax is one of the greatest revenue raisers.
  • Asset recycling – will play a large role in heading to surplus by, for example, outsourcing infrastructure projects to international investors.  For example, the $400m Pacific Highway upgrade.
  • Private investment opportunities and partnerships – It’s no secret Australia’s federal treasurer has slashed health funding from 26% of the total budget to just 13%.  However it should be noted that there are greater incentives in place to keep people out of hospital and the health care system.  Another example of state’s increasing revenue bases from outside sources include private investment into the new Northern Beaches hospital to be built.
  • Potential for revisiting older models e.g. use of funds / source of funds.  Fuel excise at 3% goes straight back into maintaining and developing road infrastructure.

The end of the mining boom

One of the stand out components of the NSW budget delivery is the huge impact reduction in demand for Australia’s natural resources that are being mined which has affected Gross National Investment (GNI). This relates to income and subsequently affects expenditure, thus reducing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) i.e. production.

In good hands

In order to maintain a strong economy based on equal parts production (supply) and consumption (demand) we need strong labour productivity.  This in turn will continue to drive Australia’s largely globally envied living standards, ‘the lucky country’ and ‘the Australian way’.

Innovation in the public service is key with bureaucracy and old ways of doing things no longer feasible.  In order to serve the citizens of NSW effectively public servants must embrace change and new, more efficient and innovative ways of creating best practice service delivery and “unleashing talent”.  An example more recently of this has been the roll out of Service NSW branches, a one stop shop for many of your administrative needs e.g. licence, etoll, seniors card.

The NSW treasury secretary ended by saying he sees tax as needing to be fair and efficient and that effective roll out of the forecast budgeted projects requires collaboration, trust and clarity.

My take is that as long as we stay passionate about being educated, work hard, buy a property and stay healthy we will be all good! And for those of us who may be disadvantaged and unable to, those who can will support you.  Any criminals who impede achievement of these ideals will be punished….

I think we are in good hands…

Tax. “The Budget”. NDIS. No comprende? Mucho importante.

I have avoided trying to understand the complexities of anything finance related my whole life.  I knew taxes existed, I always paid them, I knew they were partly used to subsidise ‘communal’ services and that they went to the Government…but that’s about the extent of my knowledge on tax. Until recently.

I was asked to complete an analysis of the FY14 Commonwealth Budget and boy was I excited!  Not really.  However, in pushing through this riveting piece of work I discovered that I genuinely found it interesting.  I decided to concentrate my analysis on the reform of key welfare initiatives and finished it feeling a lot less mystified and repelled by the notion of tax.

Did you know 35% of our taxes in Australia go toward supporting the welfare of our citizens? New initiatives like the National Disability Insurance scheme which will see a $20.3b investment over 7 years, will sure go a long way to providing much needed support to people with disability.  People with disability is a phrase that describes the 460,000 Australians who are less able than most as well as family, friends, carers or organisations that actively support them (Budget 13-14 2013 NDIS Policy).  The scheme will see increased supports so that people with disability can exercise more choice and control over their lives and achieve their full potential.  This in turn maximises the potential of the support networks of those with disability by broadening the support available to them.

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I was recently privileged to hear Sally Richards (Australian disability advocate) speak at the International People with Disability Day.  One of Sally’s four sons was born severely intellectually disabled with her husband taking his own life a few years ago, unable to cope with the added pressure while battling mental illness.  I was truly moved by Sally’s story and her commitment to ensuring that people with disability are able to make a valid contribution in society.  Sally’s amazing courage, determination and sacrifice have led her son to now live in his own townhouse, with a carer, and work part time delivering mail.  Sally believes the NDIS is just one more step in fostering better access and inclusion for people with disability, which then has the flow on effect of supporting carers and family members in maximising their potential too.

For Australians not living with disability the increase in Medicare levy from 1.5%-2% of taxable income may not be welcomed, although this is an incremental investment compared to the $20.3 billion forecast to be generated for people with disability as a result of the increase in Medicare levy. We will all be touched by disability at some point in our lives, whether we obtain a disability or know someone who requires assistance.  DisabilityCare Australia will also incorporate the National Injury Insurance Scheme (NIIS), ensuring those who are affected by a ‘catastrophic’ injury can receive supports on a no-fault basis with reduced litigation and greater access to care required (Budget 13-14 2013 NDIS Policy).

http://everyaustraliancounts.com.au

Policymakers and Treasury aim to strike a balance between the State’s economic priorities and social outcomes through varying the investment allocated to certain initiatives every financial year. The key initiatives across welfare reform demonstrate a focus on research for informed policy making, inflation adjustments and labour force participation incentives to drive increased spending.  Effective budget allocation ensures resources are allocated to increase social capital through reducing the costs of anti-social behaviour and driving social cohesion for a fully functioning society which results in a strong economy (Cox 1995).