Friday, May 2, 2008

the symbolic and the practical

Well, the new Australian government seems to be step-by-step and piece-by-piece dealing with almost everything about the previous government that made me ashamed.

The latest is the removal of discrimination against gay&lesbian couples in legislation, by giving them the same entitlements as hetero couples (the pieces of legislation in question already don't discriminate on marital status, so this part is relatively straightforward). They're not going to legalize same-sex marriage, sadly, but at least the enshrined financial discrimination by government is coming to an end.

In a way, I can accept that for the moment - I'd rather see this partial improvement get through than a more completely equitable move fail. It may be that, like the call for a republic, it's a fight for a later time, possibly even a later government. I'm still sad for the gay and lesbian couples that want to get married now.

Apparently the government is also about to deliver a $21B (AUD) budget surplus, nearly 1.75% of GDP. That's huge, more than a thousand dollars per capita. Assuming they're still funding the election promises, I worry about what's being cut, but at least it should help then deal with our current schizo economy which can't decide between the internal inflationary effects of full employment and heavy consumer spending or the market downturn brought on by the US financial crisis, since it gives them the breathing space to fairly rapidly move from the anti-inflation measure it's designed to be, to spending more to help out the economy should the economy turn extremely sour later.

They're doing better economically than the arch-conservative government they replaced, but recent Labor governments have been bigger economic reformers than the supposed conservatives anyway, while still advancing a more equitable social agenda, a less gung-ho foreign policy and more responsible environmental policies. So far, so good.

But I'm still worried about where the $21B surplus came from. I guess I'll find out soon, when the budget is released.


Paul said...

Strange how conservative governments have been failures both in Australia and America. It seems to me when I was growing up 40 years ago, conservatives had some good ideas, and conservatives and liberals weren't so far apart in being successful. I blame the take over of the conservative movement by the corporations and religious folks.

Efrique said...

Actually it turned out to be $22Billion, which they have ferreted away into funds for infrastructure and education.

That is, they've banked the money and specifically earmarked it for future spending on infrastructure (which business has been calling for, for years) and education (which almost everyone has been calling for, for years).

They've started means testing certain child-related benefits (we'll likely see a small cut in our own benefits, for example, since we sit a little above where they start cutting). Thank goodness! I could never fathom why the wealthy needed government handouts. I'm not going to knock it back if it's there, but it should not have been available to me once I started earning a decent income.

At the same time, the total child care rebate has gone up - so low income earners will see more benefits. This is as it should be.

Oh, they're finally giving family carers some benefits (e.g. someone who stays home to look after an invalid parent, spouse, or child). This is something my tax money should be going to.

There has been some spending cuts, but nothing hugely drastic.

Part of the surplus turns out to be a tax windfall from the mining boom.

The previous government was using the surpluses to fund things like big projects in marginal electorates with a sitting government member (i.e. buying votes). There were some very dodgy projects.

There's not a whole lot to hate about this budget.