Oz Blog News Commentary

Welcome to the dog whistle season in Australia

January 4, 2018 - 00:16 -- Admin

Determined to keep the pot on the boil during their extended holiday break government ministers and humble backbenchers tend to release selected dog whistles to the media .It appears we might have Liberal Senator for Tasmania Eric Abetz to thank for this one elicited by Treasury Budget Policy Division's answer to one of his Questions on Notice on or about 11 December 2017.SBS News, 29 December 2017: Working Australians are forking out roughly $83 per week to fund the nation's welfare bill.Average taxpayers are handing over $35 every week to prop up aged pensioners, $20 per week to pay for family benefits and $17 to support Australians with disabilities.Just over $6 per week goes to the unemployed, while $9 goes towards repaying interest on government debt, according to figures released to a Senate committee.Going to the source it appears that based on a fictional, average "someone who owes $11,424 in tax" in 2014-15, the extended estimates breakdown works out at a notional: $42.25 per week for health care; $35.03 for aged pensions;* $20.42 for family payments (includes child care & paid parental leave);*$19.65 for defence of the country; $18.50 as the contribution to education funding; $17.34 to cover disability payments (includes NDIS);* $9.11 for interest payments on federal government debt; $6.26 towards unemployment benefits;* $4.11 other;*$3.32 for industry assistance;$2.94 for public order & safety; $2.61 for housing & community; and $38.11 cents per week for the remaining seven listed categories.* Classified in the media as "Welfare" with a rounded down total of $83 a week Both Senator Abetz and the media remain silent on the actual cost to the average taxpayer of the full range of business/company tax concessions. They also remain silent on how individuals can structure tax offsets and investment properties in order to reduce taxable income to zero or how personal income tax rebates at the end of each financial year may affect those weekly notional figures cited as a drain on taxpayers. However, Treasury does not keep quiet on the subject of revenue foregone and helpfully releases a Tax Expenditure Statement at the beginning of each year. In fact if Senator Abetz wanted to be honest he would have included a question concerning financial benefits from taxation revenue going to all Australian households for 2016-17. In 2015-16 that came to $105.8 billion in federal monetary transfers derived from taxation revenue in that financial year or notionally around est. $94 a week per person based on the number and average size of all households in 2016. In addition each person would receive the equivalent of est. $40 per week as 'in kind' government goods & services.Which means a great many working Australians receive more from the collective income tax revenue pool than they actually pay out in individual income tax. Indeed Treasury's 2017-18 microsimulation model of Personal Income Tax and Transfers clearly shows that, based on equivalised disposable income quintiles, an est. 60 per cent of all Australian families pay no tax or less than est. $2,000 in annual income tax once government transfers received are deducted. Included in this percentage are working families with equivalised disposable incomes below $67,000pa.It should be noted that the aforementioned fictional person owing an estimated "$11,424 in tax" is likely to have an equivalised disposable income well in excess of $67,000pa.Both the microsimulation model and the fictional person make nonsense of the bald assertion that; "Working Australians are forking out roughly $83 per week to fund the nation's welfare bill".In Australia every citizen of workforce age and over pays tax - even if its just the Goods and Services Tax (GST). And every citizen of any age receives a benefit from one or more forms of tax revenue redistribution in cash and/or kind, so it is the height of hypocrisy to argue that this benefit only goes to people receiving Centrelink/Veterans Affairs payments from the state and that the entire cost of any welfare 'bill' falls squarely on the shoulders of those with other incomes. Whoever authorised this particular media swipe at welfare recipients has forgotten that the Turnbull Government had been putting out versions of this story all last year and, not only has it grown whiskers but the electorate has become somewhat resistant to such tired political rhetoric.No matter how hard political commentators try to classify receiving a government cash transfer as a form of social deviance, Australian society cannot be neatly divided into "lifters and leaners", "workers and bludgers" or "us and THEM".Over the course of a lifetime everyone of us could be considered some or all of those things at some point, as we travel from childhood dependency through to adulthood and onto the grave.NOTE:Australian Parliamentary Library, What counts as welfare spending?, extract, 21 December 2015:At its broadest welfare can be used to refer to all of the programs and services that make up the welfare state. This can include health and education, as well as income support payments such as the Age Pension, Carer Payment, Disability Support Pension and Newstart Allowance.Welfare can also refer to the administrative category of ‘social security and welfare’. This category is used in budget papers and includes spending on aged care, child care, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), family assistance payments and income support payments.Welfare can also refer to a much narrower (and less clearly defined) category of spending on income support payments to people of working age. These welfare payments are means-tested benefits provided in cash. They go to people of working age who are not participating in paid employment or other activities such as education or vocational training. The term welfare can be applied loosely to spending that meets some or all of these criteria. It is a moral or political category rather than a legal or administrative one. It is often associated with the idea that recipients have not earned an entitlement to payments through contributions to the community.Use of this political category of welfare has become increasingly common in Australian political debate. The category tends to include unemployment payments, such as Newstart Allowance, and payments to people of working age claiming support on the grounds of disability or single parenthood.Statistics on welfare spending play a central role in debates over government policy. However, in public debate it is not always clear which category these statistics refer to. Sometimes statistics that refer to the broad category of social security and welfare are presented as if they referred to the narrower political category of welfare.If public debate is to be informed by facts, commentators need to pay close attention to the way categories such as welfare are defined. When categories remain vague and ambiguous, the statistics can conceal as much as they reveal.