As is usual at this time of year – in the lead up to the annual Federal Budget that is handed down by the Commonwealth Treasurer in May each year – there has been much speculation about just what government expenditure will be subject to cuts (or ‘efficiency dividends’) because of the alleged “Budget Emergency”. As usual there are many and varied options being floated around, some as mere speculation, others as a means of ‘softening the blow’, and yet in the discussion about returning to a balanced budget (which argument is usually, and in this case, completely spurious) there appears to be discussion and speculation about only one side of the ledger.
By which I mean there are two sides to the ledger of a budget, government or otherwise: expenditure AND revenue.
Where is the discussion, the speculation, the ‘leaks’ about proposals to increase the quantum of revenue to assist in the balancing of the budget? Where is the ‘softening up’ for potential increases in tax levels – personal income, corporate and others – to ensure that the burden of a balanced budget doesn’t fall mainly on those who are least able to afford it? Where is the rhetoric about reductions in government revenue (as opposed to increases in government expenditure)?
Of course, focussing on attempts to increase the revenue side of the government ledger wouldn’t prove to be politically savvy, and indeed in the present context is impossible because of the current Government’s public rhetoric whilst in Opposition. Nevertheless, the conversation about increasing revenue – including the possibility of increasing tax revenue from those who can most afford it – needs to take place if the current Government is going to insist on returning the Federal Budget to balance or surplus (although the latter thought just defies logic at the best of time – but that’s for another time). Failure to have that conversation means that ongoing dialogue about the state of the nation’s finances can only ever be partial, and, more alarmingly, that those who are least able to cope will be the ones who will be disadvantaged.