Friday, 28 January 2011

Flood Response

Heavy Sediment along the Queensland CoastFloods have hit Australia and in certain parts are still hitting it, but by now most of the public attention has turned to the rebuilding effort. Yesterday, Julia Gillard announced her budget plans for addressing the mess; today, like many others before me (check here for a the opinion of an economy analyst I actually enjoy reading), I would like to say why I think Gillard's plans are crap.
  1. The levy
    Gillard came up with a flood levy plan where people earning north of $50,000 a year will pay an average of $250 as a one time fee. Several questions pop into my head with that, starting off with the use of a tax aimed targeting little people? Granted, I agree that we should all open our wallets, and that includes a levy; after all, I have been known to say I would actually want to pay more taxes if I was to see them going to worthwhile causes such as addressing climate change, education, health and public transport. However, the notion little people have been pointed out because they're easy prey is unavoidable: I cannot avoid the memories of Labor's mining tax. When Labor put a tax on the miners they found they had a big fight on their hands, so now they just didn't bother and instead put up a tax on the little people that cannot fight back.
    Then there are other questions, such as why make this a one time fee when it is clear Australia - and for that matter, the rest of the world - are due to have catastrophes on a more frequent basis as a direct result of man made climate change?
  2. The budget cuts
    In addition to the levy, Gillard's government chose to cut a few billion dollars from its shopping list. Why? All in the name of the elusive budget surplus idol, a concept that everyone with even the most basic understanding of finances would tell you does not make fiscal sense. Yet Gillard deems that's what the ignorant Aussie voter is after. Wave bye bye at the next elections, Julia!
    Then there is the matter of the items Julia decided to cut. Did she cut the half a billion budgeted to religious chaplains for brainwashing kids in supposedly secular state schools? No. Instead, Gillard put the knife at the throat of programs aimed at tackling climate change - the greatest morale challenge of our time, according to her predecessor and our current Minister for Foreign Affairs. Granted, most of these programs are exercises in money wasting, but some of them - like the subsidization of solar hot water system - make perfect sense. Solar hot water is our future!
    Instead of targeting climate change, the cause of all this mess, we're going the other way.
  3. Defense
    While all this budgetary mess is taking place, defense is still getting more and more of our money. And what for?
    Looking at the threats hitting Australia over the last few years, and I'm talking about genuine threats that kill people as opposed to make believe threats like asylum seeker boats, the list is narrowed down to two: fires and floods. What good does a brand new fleet of submarines going to do in a flood? What relief can the latest squadron of bombers bring when bush fires attack Australian homes?
    When the floods did hit Australia, the Australian army - an army with troops in Afghanistan and Iraq - was able to contribute something like twenty helicopters for flood relief (read here). Twenty helicopters for a flood infected area the size of Western Europe? Surely, we're putting our money in the wrong basket.
    If you want easy budget cuts, Julia Gillard, look no further than defense.
The floods that hit Australia are offering us a great opportunity: an opportunity to address the challenges causing the fire/flood catastrophes in the first place, as in climate change; and an opportunity to fix the wrongs of the budgets of past, like defense and school chaplaincy. Gillard's plan misses out on both fronts, instead going for a sterile approach that gets us nowhere. Obviously, Labor continues to misunderstand why voters have been turning against it en mass over the past two years.

Image by NASA Goddard Photo and Video

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