A few weeks have passed since the Treasurer stood at the dispatch box and delivered his Budget speech. This Treasurer who only a year ago smugly declared the Coalition had brought the country’s finances “back in black” stood once again to inform Australians that under his watch not only was the Budget in deficit but we were in fact in recession. The first in 30 years.
The Government’s narrative echoed by their sycophants in the media seems to be that the deficit can be squarely blamed on the pandemic, ignoring the fact that the economy was a bin fire long before the first case of COVID 19 was diagnosed in Wuhan.
Sadly the vast majority of those I work with seem to have opted to watch the Prime Minister's “careers ambassador” Scotty Cam spruik hardware on The Block instead of watching the Budget speech.
Seems even in a once in 100 year crisis, it is hard to get working people to engage in politics. The general consensus since seems to be that very few trust this Government to deliver support of workers, or ease the load on families.
The numbers don’t lie. This Budget is an abject failure for working people and the poor, especially it seems, if you happen to be a woman. But don’t worry, you are allowed to drive on the roads according to the MPs tasked with selling the Budget.
Considering the weaknesses laid bare by COVID 19, there was no significant investment in health care, which seems astonishing. No spending on childcare, no money for public housing, no investment to fix the aged cared sector, and no raise in the pension or welfare payments. All areas that would see the money flow directly into the economy.
Instead, true to form, the Budget delivers for millionaires and multinationals. Unaffordable tax cuts to the wealthy, instant tax write offs for business without local procurement requirements, wage subsidies for big business to employ young workers with no obligation to ensure older workers can’t be sacked en masse. Money to businesses who employ first year apprentices which will see young tradies used as cheap labour to line the pockets of unscrupulous employers, then abandoned.
Former Senator Doug Cameron is correct in imploring older workers to join their union; heaven knows they will need the protection.
All this said, it seems the conversations at work about this failed Budget have centred around the trillion dollar debt forecast by the treasurer. Many colleagues have opined about "the debt we will leave our children". It would seem that the decade long Coalition and Murdoch campaign about debt and deficit has embedded itself in the zeitgeist.
I think there is a collective dread about what the country may look like by the time the next Labor Government is elected to clean up the mess of this Government, and mend the many lives broken in the relentless pursuit of profit.
The 400 proud union members at my workplace implore the Australian Labor Party to remember its union roots and ensure we see working people fill the corridors of power in the next parliament. And as proud food manufacturing workers, we call on all governments to make sure Australia manufactures our way out of crisis.
The Morrison Government's ideological Budget is a declaration of war on workers and Australia's poor. Fortunately we are not unarmed; our weapon is Solidarity. It’s time for workers to control our destiny.
Workers carried Australia during the depths of the pandemic. All Australians must remember this as we rebuild. We must ensure no worker is left behind.
Ross Kenna is a Victorian Labor member, a workplace delegate and HSR, and a proud AMWU member and elected rank and file official.