Budget 2018: A travesty for young Australians

If you’re under 25 then #Budget2018 is squarely aimed at your grandparents.  

Australia 2018: land of Jessica Mauboy, the fair go, and bristling with neoliberal ideologues.  A reasonable person wouldn’t blame you for heading for Netflix the moment that Treasurer Scott Morrison started waving Budget papers around in Parliament.  But you shouldn’t.  Because ScoMo is one of the most powerful people in Australia, and this Morrison/Turnbull Budget will have a huge impact on young Australians for many years to come.

So, who’s got the power in Australia 2018?   Well, here’s a clue.  Melbourne-based Grattan Institute reports that the average household aged 64-74 is more than $500,000 richer today than in 2003.  The 25-34 year-old household?  Virtually no change, despite 25-34 year-old Australians today saving a greater proportion of their disposable income than did their elders.  So, a reasonable Government might well be saying ‘what about those young people’, right?  Not so fast. 

If you’re under 25 then #Budget2018 is squarely aimed at your grandparents.  A few years older?  It’s possibly your parents the Liberal/National Coalition is targeting.  Older voters are more likely to support the conservative government, and they’re the ones who benefit from the vast majority of the changes proposed by ScoMo and Co.  Coincidence?

We young (-ish, in my case) Australians face the prospect of another 50 plus years living in this glorious sunburnt country of ours.  We are, as we keep getting told by every politician in the country, the future of Australia.  So where are we in all of this?  First, the good stuff.  #Budget2018 is all about income tax cuts.  While some in our generation don’t earn enough to pay income tax – currently the tax-free threshold is $18,200 – others will benefit from the proposed reduction.  For example, if you’re earning less than $37,000 a year, your tax bill will reduce by $200 per year, worth about $3.85 a week.  Joyous, am I right?

There’s funding for 700 much-needed extra university places for young people from regional areas, and if you live in rural Australia and your parents have a healthy income, you may benefit from the proposed increase in the household income threshold.  Young people whose parents earn up to $160,000 per year may now be eligible to receive Youth Allowance.  But, and this is a big one, Youth Allowance has not been increased.  If you’re single, 18 years or old and need to live away from the family home you currently receive a maximum of $445.80 per fortnight.  That’s about $10,500 a year below the poverty line, and it ain’t getting any better.  And remember how I said older Australians are getting richer?  Well, a single person aged 65 can own a home, have $253,750 in the bank, and still be eligible for the full Age Pension.  Incidentally, this is roughly double the Youth Allowance. 

The Government’s main strategy for helping young Australians get into the housing market remains telling us not to eat smashed avo on toast.  There’s no action on negative gearing or capital gains tax.    Older Australians dominate the housing market, and continue to benefit from these arrangements which allow them to earn a healthy income from property investment which is taxed at a lower rate than what you earn while making their coffee.

We’ve known since December that there will be a two-year pause in tuition subsidy growth, which means that your university is receiving the same amount from the Government for filling your brain with knowledge as they did in 2017, despite increasing costs.  Guess who loses?  It’s not going to be the old alma mater.  The Government also wants to lower the income threshold which determines when HELP debts much start to be repaid.  Currently, you don’t start paying until you earn $52,000 a year, but Morrison and Turnbull want to lower this to $45,000.

The greatest travesty of all is the complete hostility towards acknowledging the reality of climate change.  We young Australians will have to live for decades in a country already prone to droughts, bushfires and floods as temperatures and sea-levels rise.  Climate change didn’t rate a mention in Morrison’s speech, while #Budget2018 cuts funding for climate action, leaving just $1.6 billion in funding for the 2018-19 financial year.  But there’s $65 billion in company tax cuts, $9.5 billion of which will go to the big four banks between now and 2027.  So that’s good.

You might already have an inkling, but #Budget2018 is not great for young people.  There’s little future-focused policy here, nothing which will help our generation escape our fate as the first generation since European settlement to be worse off than our parents, let alone the woefully inadequate provisions for foreign aid, domestic violence, homelessness or mental health.  Cliché, but also accurate:  it’s up to all of us to ensure that the future is what we want it to be.