After more than three decades of fiscal austerity it’s taken a right wing national-led government to raise the bar on social spending.
In last weeks’ budget the government announced an increase of $25 a week to poor families earning less than $36,500 a year. That’s an investment of $200 million per annum, but it’s still not enough. Some pundits have called the move ‘The Robin Hood Budget’, for taking from the rich and giving to the poor. And it’s about bloody time! The gap between rich and poor in this country has been getting bigger for the last 30 years and it’s time to stop it in its tracks.
Unfortunately this one move by national isn’t going to hold back income inequalities, more has to be done. Increasing the minimum wage, reducing the pay disparity between men and women and lifting benefits for single people among other strategies would be a good start. We are starting behind the eight ball, with 30 years of catching up to do. What’s concerning is that the government still wants to go ahead with tax cuts in future budgets. This would be a backward step. People with lived experience of mental unwellness have life expectancies 20 to 25 years shorter than those in the general population. And this can only be addressed by increasing benefits/incomes, providing additional healthcare programmes, introducing more adequate housing and education. At the moment the budget is nothing much more than tokenism. There is still a yawning gap between rich and poor, and child poverty rates remain a disaster. Nothing short of targeted investment is going to work. This is why the electorate has to keep the pressure on the government. It all costs, but we can afford to make the investment – and we can’t afford not to.
Written by James King