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20 January 2015
by Michael Taylor

Does the average person realise how much the Abbott Government is helping the wealthy?

He said it. He's doing it.

In opposition and in government, the Coalition has moaned with frenetic monotony that Medicare is unsustainable. The fact is, it isn’t. But while they can maintain the rage and attempt to convince everybody that the country can’t afford to keep it in its present form, they’ll find one way or another to use it as an economic scapegoat.

The news that they had scrapped their planned cuts to the Medicare rebate was only a temporary reprieve as we’ve been warned that they are still committed to introducing price signals into the national icon. Why? This was summed up by Tony Abbott:

Mr Abbott has called on the opposition and the crossbenchers to come up with alternative savings measures to pay off the debt and deficit instead of obstructing the government’s attempts to repair the budget.

It’s the same-old same-old from Tony Abbott. Blame Labor, hit the poor. The budget must be in one hell of a mess if the country’s prosperity is at stake because of Medicare.

With the government’s back-down on the planned cuts to the rebate we can expect a ramp-up in their rhetoric. The attempts to convince us that Medicare is unsustainable will go into overdrive.

I agree with the government that the budget is in a shambles, but I disagree at where the fault lies. One good thing – for them – is that while they keep Medicare in the news the real culprits behind our budget woes remain out of sight. Or as Richard Denniss points out, the much talked about budget deficit gives the Treasurer the chance to keep his agenda in the public domain. Which is, of course, that the budget can’t be fixed because Medicare is the hole in the economic bucket.

With the help of the Murdoch media not only will the Medicare bashing be kept front and centre, but the ‘real’ culprits for the deficit will be kept hidden from public view. The average punter has been deluded into believing that Medicare is unsustainable and that the only way the budget can be fixed is if services to the less well-off (aka the ‘bludgers’) are trimmed. The government and the Murdoch media have managed to sustain both the delusions rather effectively.

I wonder if the mug punter is aware of how much the Abbott Government is actually helping the wealthy. At not only the poor’s expense, but at their’s too. The facts might shock them.

How can we accept that Medicare is the boil on the budget’s backside when being slipped into the hands of the wealthy is enough money that, if ceased, would go close to balancing social inequality? And the budget, of course.

Stop pandering to the wealthy, and Medicare becomes sustainable. It is the luxuries afforded to the well-off that are unsustainable. How much is it costing us? Too much. Here are some examples.

George Lekakis writes in The New Daily that:

Former Liberal Party leader John Hewson last year called on the Abbott government to slash the superannuation tax concessions available to high-income earners.

One of the effects of the changes introduced by Peter Costello in 2006 is that most multi-millionaires can structure their assets so that they pay no tax in retirement even though they might be reaping more than $150,000 a year.

In an opinion column for the Australian Financial Review last April, Mr Hewson made three salient observations about the existing superannuation tax arrangements:

• The tax breaks on super are costing the government in foregone revenue about $45 billion a year and this is roughly the same amount that is spent each year on the age pension.

• The dollar value of the tax breaks is growing faster than expenditure on the aged pension, making concessions on super contributions a much bigger threat to balancing government finances in the near-term.

• The super tax concessions are skewed to high-income earners: the top 10 per cent of income earners reap more than 36 per cent of the tax concession dollars, while the bottom 10 per cent are actually penalised for making super contributions.

Did you read that? $45 billion a year just on superannuation tax breaks. And who gets the bulk of that? Yes, the wealthy. (And it certainly makes the $7.5 billion spent on Newstart look paltry in comparison).

This year Medicare will cost us $20 billion. I’m happy to contribute towards the cost, but I sure do hate losing out because of the $45 billion tax breaks (alone) to the country’s well-off.

But it’s only the start.

Of the $18 billion in lost revenue over the next four years from the abolition of the ‘mining tax’, $1.6 billion of that was “purely a gift from Mr Abbott to the miners”.

Scrapping the mining tax will cost us $5.3 billion and who gets that? It will go mainly to the biggest mining companies:

The mining industry is clearly at the top of the government’s priority list. They sit far above concerns about the cost of living for working families.

Then there’s the $2.4 billion a year the government gives back to property investors because of negative gearing. How many welfare recipients have investment properties? How many of the well-off do?

And while the price of fuel costs you a couple of dollars extra week due to Hockey’s new surcharge you might like to know that:

A new report finds exploration by coal and energy companies is subsidised by Australian taxpayers by as much as $US3.5 billion ($4 billion) every year in the form of direct spending and tax breaks.

Heard enough? There’s no doubt more, but this small handful of examples alone should be enough for the average person to realise how much the Abbott Government is helping the wealthy.

Medicare – I repeat – isn’t the problem. The government is. They’re giving too much money to the rich.