Battlers thrown under the omnibus, but free seats for the rich

March 25, 2017

Here we go again. The second version of the Omnibus bill that the Turnbull government is trying to drive through parliament — the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform) Bill 2017 — promises yet more savage attacks on welfare recipients and the working poor, and we haven't even seen the 2017–18 budget yet.

The proposed cuts to Newstart would see the income of people receiving this payment reduced to 30% below the poverty line to help fund a $50 billion corporate tax cut. The Australia Institute calculated the banking industry's share of this windfall to be a $7.4 billion rise in profit.

According to the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) the cuts will touch 1.5 million households at a time when 40% of children in single parent families already live in poverty.

The cuts to welfare payments have been accompanied by ever tighter restrictions on eligibility and a deliberate policy of harassment and bullying to dissuade people from even applying for payments to which they are perfectly entitled. The Centrelink robo-debt debacle is simply an expression of this mean-spirited and punitive approach.

At the same time the federal government is trying to spin the line that modest improvements to service provision in one area can only be funded by cutting another. The current round of cuts is touted as necessary to pay for childcare benefits, and we've already been told that we need to cut pensions to pay for the NDIS.

Instead of lowering tax on the big corporations, it should be raised, and a good start would be to get the 600 corporations that pay no tax all and the hundreds more that pay far below the top rate to actually make a contribution.

A passionate and tearful speech to parliament by Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie, in which she recounted her experience as a single parent on welfare, has been widely shared on social media. She told the Turnbull government: "What you are doing is shameful. If you realise the damage you are continually doing to that part of society you would stop doing it."

It certainly is shameful, but Lambie misunderstands what motivates them. They are perfectly well aware that they are destroying people's lives. They simply don't care. Polling commissioned by the Australia Institute in the seat of Dickson, held by immigration minister Peter Dutton, showed that 60% of those polled opposed the cuts to Newstart.

Former Treasurer Joe Hockey's contempt for us was symbolised by the 2014 budget cigar-chomping image. Turnbull was supposed to be a slightly slicker salesperson, but a shit sandwich on a silver plate is still a shit sandwich.

The immediate aim of the government is obvious: shifting wealth from the poorest to the wealthiest. But they are also planning for the future. If and when recession comes to our shores, they want the system set up to bail out the big end of town and not working people.

We are in a race against time to build a fightback against this sociopathic agenda. People’s lives depend upon it. Every contribution you can make to the Green Left Weekly Fighting Fund will help us spread the word.

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