I have been reflecting on the budget over last few days, as you do. While I’ve tweeted and updated my status to indicate my dismay, 140 characters or a status update cannot really articulate my fears for my children’s future.
A disclaimer to start. I am a passionate public educator and believe to my core that the only way to have a productive society in the future is to ensure that every child has access to quality education regardless of their socio-economic background. I also believe that a child (and their family) should have access to free quality healthcare. I think that those who earn more should pay more for this to occur because it is our moral imperative to do so.
Yes, OUR moral imperative. I include myself in that. While I don’t earn enough to be slugged with a deficit levy, I do earn too much to be eligible for family tax benefit B. I am happy to pay more taxes as long as funding is not cut from public schools and public health. This is MY moral imperative.
As I care for a terminally ill husband, who regularly visits the doctor and requires 6 different medications, I will be hit by the changes to prescription drug prices and GP visits. I calculate it will be approximately $40 per month. I can afford this and I will pay this happily if there are not cuts to public education and public health. However, I am aware of people who are in the same boat but cannot afford another $40 per month. They already barely scrape by and have no disposable income left.
When thinking about these people and the situation the Liberal party will put them in, I realised that every politician in the Liberal Party has had a relatively privileged upbringing and has never lived below the poverty line from week to week. Correct me if I’m wrong. I will concede that there may have been a time when they had to live week to week but they would have always had a parent, sibling or grandparent who they could turn to for help. They would never have been truly desperate. They have never had to choose between rent, food, school excursion or medication.
How do I know what it’s like and why is it so important to me?
I am only able to afford these increases now because my single mother got a pension and public housing. I got a free, quality education at a public school and I was able to access university for a minimal debt and be paid Austudy to do this. I was also able to access unemployment benefits when I finished that study so I could find the type of job that would allow me to pay tax in the 2nd highest bracket, afford private health insurance and amass significant superannuation so I can afford to retire and not be a burden on the welfare system. I have paid back what was invested in my education and I am now contributing to the rest of my community and I am honoured to do that. It is my moral imperative. Without it I would have been homeless and without means to change that by the age of 19.
I worry for my children. Not because they will be in the same situation as me, they won’t be because I am able to support them financially, but because they will live in an Australian society that allows the poor and the weak to suffer the most. Do not use making a better future for our children as a catch cry for these hideous, inhuman budget measures, when it is only the children of rich and affluent who will be better off. There are millions of children all over Australia who will not be.