The billions that could be spent better


The federal Labor government had a rare win when it wedged Tony Abbott and the Liberal opposition into supporting its plan to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) through an increase in the Medicare levy.

But will this be enough to stop Abbott from winning the next election? If the bookies know their business, few are game to put money on this. An ALP win is at its longest odds since Sportsbet opened betting on the election result.

The NDIS funding “win” shows that there is potentially powerful popular support for good things like raising spending on disability support funding. The same would apply to education funding, as the ongoing fight about the Gonski education funding suggests. And if the ALP government had the principle to fight for other issues such as real public investment in renewable energy or equal marriage rights, there would be popular support for that too.

But the problem is that with every Gillard government proposal to address an urgent need there is a built in poison pill in the form of some part of the neoliberal-privatisation agenda. In proposing to fund NDIS through an increase in the Medicare levy the government gives yet more ground to the neoliberal push to further erode progressive taxation.

NDIS itself promotes privatisation through introducing a voucher system. The Gonski education funding also locks in billions of dollars of public funding to profit-making private schools. The ALP's soon-to-fail emissions trading scheme is the same.

The ALP adding a neoliberal poison pill to all these plans reinforces the influence of the right-wing political ideology that is making an Abbott win a near certainty.

On May 5 at a protest against the NSW government's de-funding of the Welfare Rights Centre, a frustrated Labor party member agonised about the “stupidity” of his party leadership in not taking a lead in many progressive causes. But is it stupidity? Or simply that the ALP leadership and government substantially share Abbott's conservative neoliberal ideology?

The Australia Institute has produced a graph that shows the billions of dollars that are being misspent on war machines and corporate concessions and subsidies, and compares it with the shameful spending on the poorest and most vulnerable.

Green Left Weekly does not flinch from exposing the Labor and Liberal parties for serving the selfish and destructive interests of the corporate rich. But we have real budget problems that can only be fixed with your help.

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