05 March, 2007

Single parents in Australia are taxed at 63c per dollar, but it’s only a symptom of a larger national imbalance.

Let’s play Mummies and Daddies. Pretend you’re a single mum or dad, relying on your fortnightly cheque from Centrelink to survive. It doesn’t cover anywhere near your living expenses – rent, electricity, food, phone, fuel, …you know.

What to do? Move in to the squalor of a boarding house? Eat boiled spuds 3 times a day? Move back in with the folks? Some sort of 'humble pie' adjustment may well be necessary.

Service bills like electricity, telephone and water are extraordinarily expensive in australia by comparison with many countries.

The standard response from middle class suburbia is “Get off your arse and find a real job, slacko”.

OK, but jobs are scarce, even part-time ones …especially for a single parent. Secondly, single parents are punished by being taxed at an effective marginal tax rate of
63c in every extra dollar they earn over and above the prescribed Centrelink limits. By comparison, australians earning the highest incomes are taxed at no more than 46.5c per extra dollar.

By comparison, an equivalent single parent in other OECD countries gets (on average) to keep 69c per dollar, about twice as much as in australia. Howard is looking about as socially compassionate as Pol Pot with a gut-ache.

So why go out to find extra work, spending most of your day apart from your child, when you get to keep only 37c in each extra dollar ...plus pay for child-care ...and suffer Centrelink snoops intruding into your private life?

The simple reality is the arithmetic concerning the financial survival of the nation. Australia is a huge continent with huge infrastructure costs: vast distances of roads, railways, air routes, pipelines, electricity grids etc. And a relatively tiny number of taxpayers to prop it all up. (That raises logical questions about reasons for population contraction in countries like Australia - but that's another story. Populations of rabbits contract too, when there are pressures on their food and water).

So - back to our single parent waiting in the Centrelink queue. Howard is relying heavily on YOU to subsidize the nation's over-stretched budget, but at the cost of your own. He’s a privileged Tory silvertail, plundering the purses of the people who can least afford it, all the while paying for a war which will increase Terror and reduce Quality of Life for everyone.

The toll on families is poignantly pointed out in an article in The Age:
Work Obsession hides immense human tragedy.

Postscript: About 3 years ago on ABC TV, Treasurer Peter Costello quietly suggested (in a jaw-dropping policy about-face) that baby-boomer australians ought to keep working into their 70s. He said it with a horrid guilty little smirk-giggle. HE knew the real reason for having to finally say the un-sayable …that australia was not managing to keep up with its bills either - because there weren’t enough tax-payers feeding his Treasury coffers. This is in spite of Howard’s beloved GST, which, he originally argued, was merely to replace a good deal of income tax (Core promise? Porkie number 7639?)

If Ducklips gets back AGAIN next election, watch the GST rate rise.
Watch it whoever gets in, actually.

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