A ‘left-leaning’ budget? Fake news is alive and well, then

Comrade Treasurer Scott Morrison?

It is just as well we are so alert these days to “fake news”, otherwise some might actually believe media claims the federal government has delivered a “left-leaning” budget.

Either that or the claims stand as a rather stunning testimony to how far to the right we’ve slid that a budget marked by large-scale corporate tax breaks, education cuts and savage attacks on society’s poorest counts as “a left turn”.

It seems that these days, if spending cuts are relatively targeted, not as extreme as feared and come with a minor levy on banks that will barely dent the billions in profits they rake in, then it’s considered virtually a socialist five-year plan.

The main point of comparison seems to be the widely reviled 2014 budget under Tony Abbott, which took the approach of near total austerity on all non-corporate sectors all at once. But, by that criterion, even Margaret Thatcher starts looking a bit pinkish.

If the 360-degree attacks in that now-buried budget are the measurement, then we might as well start calling John Howard “comrade” and ask him to chair the next round of union rallies.

Much is made of the levy on banks that will bring in just over $6 billion, which sounds like a lot till you realise the corporate tax cuts will cost $64 billion over the next 10 years. Claiming that this levy means the Coalition is tackling corporate greed is like claiming you’re alright to drive after hours of drinking on the grounds your last beer was a mid-strength.

The most controversial aspect of the budget is its attacks on welfare recipients. The most talked about measure is the introduction of targeted drug testing for those on Newstart, but it also includes extending the horrendous practice of quarantining welfare payments and further restricting access to the disability pension.

And fair enough, because when it comes to those not pulling their weight in this society, I always think: “Forget the one-third of all large companies operating in Australia who pay zero tax, it’s really the disability pensioners you want to worry about.”

For all the loud outrage at welfare recipients “bludging” off taxpayers, these measures are going to cost the taxpayer quite a lot more.

For instance, existing welfare quarantining measures are already costing the government $10,000 per recipient. And the experience overseas of drug testing welfare recipients is that such measures cost the taxpayer heavily for very little results. When the policy was trialled in New Zealand in 2014, there was a grand total of 22 positive results from about 8000 tests.

This is almost touching, when you consider that far from being money-pinching austerity-drivers, the Coalition are actually quite prepared to spend big when it comes to an issue as close to their hearts as kicking the poor.

So sure, these policies are expensive, but you can’t put a price on destroying the dignity of the poorest. It is not cheap, but it’s worth it for the crumpled, soul-destroyed looks on the faces of the poor as they realise just how much this government truly despises them.

The “druggie dole bludger” cliche notwithstanding, it actually makes little sense to imagine welfare recipients are bound to be heavy drug users.

Considering Newstart payments are $160 below the poverty line,combined with the ever-rising cost of living, then anyone able to fund a serious drug problem while on the dole should probably be hailed for their remarkable money-management skills. Far from being punished, they should be given a top treasury job.

It is no surprise, then, that researchers have warned Treasurer Scott Morrison that his suggested plan to determine where to trial the drug testing by testing sewage samples “might misfire”.

Drug researcher John Ryan, part of the Victorian government’s Ice Action Taskforce, said such a move would only highlight the high levels of drug use among professionals working in “the finer leafy suburbs”.

Still, I can see some validity to the “test the sewage” approach. Whatever my criticisms of the government, I’m willing to help out by sending Morrison just as much sewage as he might need.

In fact, in the spirit of constructive citizen engagement, we can all try to help by sending our Treasurer our own personal sewage to make the process as easy as possible. You can send your sewage samples, in an airtight bag, along with your postcode to Scott Morrison’s parliamentary office at PO Box 6022, House of Representatives, Parliament House, Canberra, 2600. I’m sure your contribution will be appreciated.

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