Canberra Deserves Better - OpEd, Inside Canberra

CANBERRA DESERVES BETTER

Inside Canberra, 19 May 2017

Canberra got a dud deal from the Coalition’s 2017 budget. In at least five significant ways, the bush capital will be left worse off as a result of deliberate decisions by the Turnbull Government.

First, one of Canberra’s largest export earners is education, with university teaching and research vital to sustaining the ACT economy. Cutting $2.7 billion from universities in addition to the 2.5 per cent efficiency dividend and lowering the repayment threshold for HELP loans will hold back important institutions like the University of Canberra, the Australian National University, ACU (Canberra) and UNSW (Canberra).

Second, the Turnbull Government’s own budget papers show that they are ripping $22 billion from schools. ACT schools are the hardest hit in the country. Annual average growth rate in per student funding is only 1.6 per cent for the ACT over the decade, compared with 4.1 per cent growth for Australia as a whole. Tanya Plibersek, our Shadow Education Minister, has pledged that a Labor Government will reverse every single cent of the $22 billion cut. We won’t be giving a $65 billion handout to big business. Instead, we will be investing in our nation’s schools.

The third issue is health. At the 2016 election, Malcolm Turnbull promised that Australians would not pay more to visit the doctor. Since then, out of pocket costs to see a doctor have jumped 11 percent. The hardest-hit jurisdiction is the ACT, which has seen a whopping 14 percent cost rise. Despite promising to end the Medicare freeze, Mr Turnbull is keeping it going – in some cases for more than two years. A Shorten Labor Government will reverse Turnbull’s Medicare freeze immediately, because we know that every day until the freeze ends is another day that Australians will be paying more for health.

Fourth, despite the Turnbull Government talking a lot about infrastructure, the ACT has been overlooked. There is no new support for any major transport projects in the ACT, and the promised Barton Highway upgrades are not funded in this year’s budget. This stands in stark contrast to Labor’s approach, which was to fund projects based on economic analysis, not politics. Under the Liberals’ approach, it’s hard to imagine that the Majura Parkway would ever have received federal funding.

Fifth, there’s the continued public service cuts. Despite the robo-debt debacle, the Turnbull Government is cutting 4 per cent of jobs in the Department of Human Services and 2 per cent in the Department of Social Services (335 of which are based in the ACT). Across the public service, analysis by the Community and Public Sector Union shows that 17 out of 25 departments will lose staff.

It is clear the Coalition’s priorities lie with millionaires and multinationals – not the people and institutions of the nation’s capital. Canberra deserves better.


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