Gen X – Thumbs up for Family Tax benefit B

Simon Sharwood and Elissa Baxter write:

As a pair of X-ers who have done our fair share of McJobs, career-interrupting travel, tangential study and have now nestled into self-employment to gain the flexibility we need to raise our family, Costello budgets were strangely compelling. Cossie had a present for us most years, with the various tax cuts and rebates buttressing our disposable incomes without ever reducing our loathing of the Howard government.

That disposable income largely goes on stuff we never imagined our kids would need. Vacation care costs a bomb and, now that we work for ourselves, if we don’t have it, we can’t make money. It costs about $200 just to have one kid play soccer for a year, before boots and shin pads. And we have, much to our astonishment, found that we spend about $30 on dairy products each week. That’s about the same as we spend on petrol, for what it’s worth, thanks to our inner city latte ghetto location and cynically traffic-slowing bicycle riding habits.

Yet unlike other Rudd firsts (the apology, the Kyoto ratification) neither of us really felt compelled to watch this year’s budget. Simon attended his bicycle club’s AGM instead. Elissa tuned in and out, mentally. Neither of us wanted to nestle in front of the tube because we felt there would be no surprises. Between the election promises and the leaks, it was more or less obvious what we would get. We’ve already seen the big picture, so having the line items recited held little interest.

Having said that, we do alright out of this budget, We’ll be a couple of thousand in the black in FY 08-09, which should offset the rising cost of dairy products.

We’re thrilled by the new arrangements on Family Tax benefit B, as the previous regime was a nasty plan to keep women at home, which offended our sensibilities and made it possible for people who make more money than us to tap into welfare. All the infrastructure stuff sounds great too, although ports are a worry here in the inner west of Sydney, a likely thoroughfare for container-laden trucks. Some vision to go with the money would have been nice.

At least one of the means tests seems mis-targeted. Our water tanks work a treat, so we are more than interested in going greener still with solar panels. As we fall on the wrong side of Wayne Swan’s magic $150,000 mark as a household, quite how a small rebate for households on smaller incomes will get them over the solar line is anyone’s guess.

Gen Y – It’d be nice to see more money for public housing, less money for defence, and less censoring of the Net.

Naomi Civins writes:

As a Gen-Yer I think I’m expected to be totally self-centred in this assessment of the Budget, but really, there’s not that much in it for me. An Office for Youth. No more salary sacrificing a personal laptop. An increase in the Medicare surcharge threshold from $50,000 to $100,000 – but no subsidised dental treatment. The doubling of the Higher Education Endowment Fund, the $500 million for education-specific infrastructural improvements at universities, the extra $535 million on research scholarships, getting rid of full-fee-paying undergrad positions – being a student, these make me happy (even though VSU is apparently here to stay).

It’s irritating to hear that we’re spending “record” levels on defence – almost as much as the surplus itself. But I’m less concerned about lining my wallet, and more interested in funding for the internet, equitable housing solutions, how we’re treating our neighbours in the region, and of course, the environment.

The internet

Funding for the National Broadband Network is coming from pre-existing funds and the sale of Telstra T3 shares, so it’s easy for Rudd to boast of investing almost $5 billion on the Network. Still, 12mbps as a minimum speed is a reasonable return on our investment – that is, it would be now. By the time it’s actually deployed, we’ll probably still be operating at approximately half the broadband speed of the rest of the world.

Disturbingly, the Cyber-safety Plan is still going ahead, with ISPs receiving funds to install filtering of ACMA’s blacklist of websites. If it’s voluntary, we’re in luck – the ISPs have been furious in the past when being told they’ll be responsible for installing filtering software. If it’s mandatory, we’re totally screwed. Thankfully the Plan does protect the little children, through a committee, a website, and research projects.


If I hadn’t already bought my first house I’d be excited about the new savings accounts where the Government chips in a bit and also taxes interest at only 15%. I’m more interested though in public housing – 600 new houses for the homeless, over five years. Underwhelming. My renting friends may benefit from the shift towards lower-cost rental homes, but it’s disappointing we’re still fixated on rental housing being provided by individual investors. But we are getting an Office of Housing, who may have ideas to provide more stability to renters.

Our neighbours

Back home, we’re spending nicely on our own region, looking at improving water and sanitation services, basic infrastructure, Pacific policing, and $174 million to aid the restoration of peace and stability in Timor-Leste. I wonder how much of that will go to Indonesia to help train their military forces again. There’s no news on whether we’re going to start accepting climate change refugees though.

The environment

We’re reducing emissions by 60% by 2050 – and providing almost equal funding to both clean coal and renewable energies. We are providing little bits and pieces of grants for environmental projects all over the place, and finally investing some decent money ($1 billion) in water projects, acknowledging that rainfall won’t save us. But we’re still operating well within our comfort boundaries, evidence that Rudd has shied away from some of the toughest decisions we will have to face eventually as a country.

It’s not a bad start, Rudd. It’s safe, and secure, and pretty easy, and not that tough. It’s nice to see means-testing returning to our vocabulary, even if work-for-the-dole is apparently here to stay. It’d be nicer to see more money for public housing, less money for defence, and less censoring of the Net. But it’s a decent start. We won’t lampoon you on YouTube quite yet.

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Peter Fray
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