State Budget 2023. A Clear Choice: People & Planet or Profiteering Corporations.
Victorian State Budget 2023. A Clear Choice: People & Planet or Profiteering Corporations.
The conventional wisdom about the upcoming state budget is that due to continued deficits and a rising debt, the state should enter an austerity phase of belt tightening until the budget is back into surplus.
It’s already been reported that the government is planning to sack 5,000 workers, cut funding to services, and continue to keep wages low through the public sector wage cap.
This thinking ignores two critical factors.
Social & Environmental deficit
Firstly, is that Victoria is already contending with a massive social and environmental deficit, that will only continue to get worse with an austerity budget.
Right now, the rising cost-of-living and low wages are pushing more and more people to the margins.
Homelessness is increasing and the public housing waiting list continues to rise above 100,000 people.
People in need of dental care are waiting over 16 months for treatment and many people can’t afford to access the healthcare they need.
Victorian ecosystems are on the brink of collapse and the number of threatened species continues to rise.
Without significant government intervention, more Victorians will be pushed into poverty and crisis, seeking help at already stretched homelessness services, food relief and emergency wards.
Can we really afford for things to get worse before there is any prospect of them getting better?
Revenue & Savings
There are massive amounts of revenue that could be raised from making profiteering corporations like the big banks, property developers and gambling industry pay more tax.
The Premier and Treasurer are saying the state is ‘facing the same challenges as households’ but this tactic of comparing a government's budget to household budgets is patently untrue.
Governments have access to revenue sources that struggling households don’t.
It is galling that the big banks are profiteering off of high interest rates while people struggle to pay the rent and put food on the table.
A big bank levy as currently applied by the federal government and previously proposed by the South Australian government could raise between $4 and $15 billion dollars over the next ten years, depending on the rate that is set.
Reintroducing a social housing levy, which the government dumped after caving into pressure from the property industry, and increasing the developer windfall levy on rezoned land could raise around $16 billion dollars.
Increasing the online betting tax to 20% could raise almost $3 billion dollars.
There would also be huge savings in moving away from the policies of mass incarceration and embracing drug law reform of around $4 billion dollars.
With billions of dollars of potential revenue and savings available to help lower the rising cost-of-living and stop the extinction crisis, an austerity budget now, with so many people in need, would be unconscionable.
A Clear Choice This Budget
The state government has a clear choice between an austerity budget and making the profiteering big banks and corporations pay their fair share.
Victoria already has lower than the national average funding for public education, public health and public hospitals, and our environment is in dire need of proper funding to halt extinction.
What point is reaching a surplus on paper if the costs of acting simply grow and grow and become the responsibility of future budgets and future governments?
The state budget must address the urgent social and environmental challenges we face, with more public and affordable housing, higher wages through scrapping the public sector wage cap, more funding for threatened species and making it easier for people to see a GP, dentist or psychologist.
It also must look at the bigger picture with a long-term plan to end poverty, to end homelessness, genuinely lower the cost-of-living and to protect and restore our environment.
We cannot afford a budget that would still see Victorians who are struggling now left behind and leave a massive social and environmental deficit for future generations to deal with, whilst big corporations continue to profiteer.