Tony Abbott and his Treasurer Joe Hockey laid down one of the most shocking budgets this country has seen in quite some time. Make no mistake; this is a tough, harsh budget. There’s no two ways about it. With a scarce few key exceptions, barely anyone will be exempt from budgetary pain in the 2014 fiscal year, though predictably some people are hit much, much harder than others.
And arguably no one is harder hit by this budget of cuts than young people. It is an unusually cruel, bordering on pathologically mean spirited budget for the Australia’s young generation, with education and employment services hit particularly hard. But what do all these figures and economic terms being bandied about actually mean for the well being of Australia’s youth? Let’s look at the key areas where you’re hit the hardest.
Perhaps more than any other area, education cops it hard. The Gonski reforms are gone, surely pleasing Christopher Pyne to no end. Higher Education is where things get really bleak. The Government has officially deregulated and uncapped University fees, meaning from 2016 schools will be free to charge as much as they want for their courses. This is more or less a guarantee that fees are going to go up. In some cases, probably by quite a lot.
In addition, interest rates are going to be applied to your FEE-HELP loans at the government bond rate that’s a damn sight higher than the inflation rate that loans are currently assessed at. Furthermore, they’ll lower the repayment threshold by 10 percent.
What does this mean? You’ll be paying more for University. If you can’t pay upfront, your debt will increase at a much faster rate. And you’ll be paying that back once you start earning more than $46,000 a year.
But let’s say the University stuff doesn’t bother you too much. It’s just kind of something that you’ll have to deal with, after all. It’s once you leave Uni that you’re really going to start feeling the pinch. The current Youth Unemployment rate sits at 12.5% of all young people aged between 15 and 24; well above the national rate of 5.8%. Young people are simply struggling to find gainful employment in an ever-competitive market.
The budget doesn’t help you in the slightest here. In fact it’s really putting the boots in. Newstart (y’know, The Dole) won’t be available to you until you’re 25, meaning if you choose to – or if you have to – utilise government benefits, you’ll be stuck on Youth Allowance, and the $100 less a fortnight that brings in, for a few extra years.
Additionally, Newstart is being radically overhauled. If you apply for Newstart you’re gonna have to wait 6 months before you can get it. And even then you’ll only be able to get it for 6 months out of each year. And even then you’ll need to do 25 hours a week of Work for the Dole. It’s taking an already dehumanising process and shaming you further.
And if your already well-stretched budget isn’t well-stretched enough, health is copping a massive hit. Bulk billing is dead. Gone. Over. Forget about it. Every time you go to the GP from now on, you’re going to have to pay. $7 each visit. It mightn’t sound like much on paper, but you’ve got to remember that when people are given the option of paying something, or not, they’ll keep their change. In addition, pharmaceuticals will go up, you’ll have to pay for blood tests if you require them, and if you go to the Emergency Room for something they feel a GP could’ve treated, they’ll charge you.
The good news is that if you wind up getting particularly ill, the $7 co-payment is capped at 10 visits. And most of that money is going towards setting up one of the largest Medical Research funds in the western world. A rare win in the budget, but one that doesn’t necessarily directly affect you.
Got a young family? The belt’s particularly tight for you. Along with the added burden of job seeking and health woes, the Family Tax Benefits are being wildly slashed. The eligibility threshold for household income has been dropped by a third, and the age cut-off has been taken down from previously applying to families with children under 18, all the way down to being cut off when your youngest child turns six. Ouch.
The petrol excise is also going to hit the family pocket hard. The excise is being indexed to inflation, and will be raised every six months. You’re going to be paying more at the pump to fill up your car. And that price is going to keep increasing at a quicker rate than what it is now.
OTHER THINGS YOU MIGHT CARE ABOUT
Foreign aid? Slashed by $7.6 billion dollars. We’re sending far less money overseas to help our international neighbours in need.
Public broadcasting? Slashed. The ABC and SBS are having 1 percent of their annual funding taken out over the next four years, meaning less money for producing and encouraging young local content, and potential job cuts.
Public service? 70 agencies gone. 16,500 jobs gone. Far greater than the 12,000 that was previously promised.
The Environment? Clean energies investment slashed by billions, and direct action policies are now on double the rollout timeline.
THE BOTTOM LINE
When he was opposition leader, Tony Abbott promised that he would not cut education or health budgets, and he would not implement new taxes. He promised he would not impose cuts on the ABC and SBS. He promised he would lead a Government that would keep its promises. In this regard, with this budget, he has failed spectacularly.
The reality is that if you’re in the Mining Industry, if you’re a construction corporation chasing Infrastructure contracts, if you’re a high income earner, or if you’re in the military, you’ve done very well out of this budget. If you’re a young person, you’re going to feel a significant pinch.
The budget might well deliver a surplus a lot faster than previously thought, but at what cost? It is not the job of the Government to sprint towards fiscal balance. It is not the job of the Government to erase all debt in a single term to create billboard slogans to sail into the next election on. It is the job of the Government to attain sensible, practical economics that will deliver the country from its (and let’s stress it here, entirely manageable) debt, whilst providing resources and support for the nation’s less fortunate. This budget does not achieve that.
You might find it necessary, and it might benefit us in the long run, but the fact remains that the Abbott Government would not have been elected if these policies had been revealed sooner.
Brace yourselves, kids. Winter is coming.
Photo: Madeleine Coorey via Getty Images.