Monday Night Q&A: Are we the Handout Generation?

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Last week Treasurer Scott Morrison claimed, ‘A generation has grown up in an environment where receiving payments from the Government is not seen as the reserve of the disadvantaged, but a common and expected component of their income over their entire life cycle, and not inconsistent with self-reliance.’ Are we a generation reliant on those sweet Centrelink dollars and tax-free thresholds, and should low-income earners and young people pull their weight to maintain the economic stability of the country?

Satyajeet Marar, Macq Liberal Club

The most frustrating thing about Treasurer Scott Morrison’s comments is that he isn’t wrong.

The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling has confirmed that the share of households considered ‘net taxpayers’, those whose income tax payments exceed what they receive as social security, has fallen from 56% to 51% in under a decade and is likely to dip below 50% soon.

We have one of the world’s most comprehensive welfare states, one which provides a greater safety net for the underprivileged than most developed nations, but that must come at a cost.

The left will try to sell you a boogeyman by deferring blame onto evil corporations who do not ‘pay their fair share’. They will point to statistics noting that many large companies paid little tax in previous years within Australia. This is problematic because it assumes that companies are taxed on their gross income and not their actual net profit. It also fails to account for the fact that one of the reasons these companies do business in Australia and employ Australian workers is because our corporate tax environment is relatively more attractive than those of other comparable nations. Australia’s corporate tax rate is amongst the highest of any OECD nation, exceeding the rates payable in the UK, Germany and even Canada. So it’s clear that the problem isn’t that companies aren’t paying their fair share.

So the question is, who isn’t paying their fair share? Is it the people whose incomes are so low that they are not taxed? No, these are people who make less than 18,000$ a year. Is it the rich or the better off at the top end of the progressive tax bracket scale? No again, these individuals contribute a whopping 45% – close to half the income they work for in tax.

Now, what if we’re asking the wrong question? What if the problem lies on the other side of the equation – government spending. Welfare states do not exist to make life more comfortable for us – they exist to provide a safety net to those in society who truly need it. Cutting wasteful spending isn’t about destroying the welfare state – it is about preserving it for future generations. It is about preserving our way and quality of life. Our government spending has risen from 23.1 per cent of GDP in 2007 to 25.8 per cent last year and it is time or decisive action to reverse this trend and return the budget to surplus.

The coalition’s proposed $6.5 billion savings plan is a step in the right direction, minimising unproductive spending programs while largely avoiding increases to the capital gains tax and other revenue-raising (rather than spending cutting) measures proposed by Labor which would compromise investment and growth. Though an even more comprehensive range of cuts to middle class welfare, including the ‘baby bonus’, would be welcome. It is crucial that these measures obtain bipartisan support to ensure our welfare state remains sustainable.

Lizzie Green, President of MQU Labor

‘There is a new divide – the taxed and the taxed nots’. This interesting new phrase coined by Scott Morrison last week is the latest in Liberal phrases describing people who are receiving welfare in Australia. (Remember Joe Hockey’s ‘Lifters and Leaners’ anyone?)

Morrison claims that this generation is the first generation to be growing up in an environment where receiving payments from the government is a ‘common and expected component of their income,’ and that more Australians today are going through life without ever paying tax.

I guess under this logic that majority of Australia are on welfare benefits. Which is 100% wrong.

The amount of people who are on welfare benefits are made up of those mainly on age pensions and veteran pensions. These people have made their fair share of contributions to Australian life, including in tax, so why is it fair to be attacking them over their payments?

Another group who receive a lot of benefits are students and young families, who are usually also working part time, while studying or taking care of their families. These benefits help people when they would normally be down to $0 after paying for essentials like electricity, water, rent and food. So why attack them for trying to survive?

Now, from my perspective, and it seems the majority of Twitter users on the day the quotes were made, the real ‘taxed nots’ would actually be multinational companies, who aren’t paying their fair share in taxes.

Morrison’s attack on the most vulnerable Australians receiving welfare is typical of the Liberals. If they spent as much time meeting people in areas like Mount Druitt and surrounding areas of Western Sydney as they did attacking those people, they would see that these people are trying to make ends meet to support their children and their families in the best possible way.

If they had spoken to these people during the election, they would see the hardship these people are going through to make sure their children – the next generation – grow up with the essentials: a roof over their heads, food and water, and education and health care. They wouldn’t see help from the government as just a ‘hand out’; they see it as help for their children’s future.

Bill Shorten is right – ‘Australians don’t want a whinger as treasurer, Australians want a doer as treasurer.’ And he should be doing the right thing and asking those who can afford it to pay their fair share in tax, not attacking the vulnerable.