WITH the final outcome of the Federal Election too close to call, St Vincent de Paul Society chief executive officer Dr John Falzon has offered an agenda that any majority government should follow towards a more caring Australia.
As The Catholic Leader went to print, neither the Coalition nor Labor was assured of enough seats to form a majority government and a hung parliament was possible.
Writing in the final days of the campaign amid political uncertainty, Dr Falzon called for a progressive society with a “fair-go tax system” which “would tax those who have much rather than taking away from those who have little”.
Dr Falzon drew a clear link between tax and the poorest in society who struggled with their health, housing and education needs.
“Current policy settings for negative gearing, capital gains tax discounts and superannuation tax concessions do not help the wealth to trickle down,” Dr Falzon said.
“They help keep it at the top by rewarding people and corporations who have already benefitted from the prosperity generated by economic growth.
“Taxation is an important means of redistributing wealth and opportunities. We should be using it to make Australia more equal; something we should actually strive for rather than fear.”
The St Vincent de Paul Society used the campaign period to highlight the plight of the homeless, and the impact of the most disadvantaged in Australian society.
“There are no silver bullets but we know what works: prevent people in high-risk groups from becoming homeless, fund evidence-based programs for people who are already homeless and ensure enough homes for people on low incomes,” a St Vincent de Paul Society editorial said.
“The economic evidence is also available. A recent study shows that preventing young people from becoming homeless in the first place could save governments an estimated $626 million per year across the youth justice and health service systems alone.”
Dr Falzon also quantified how a skewed tax system affected Australia’s most marginalised.
“Tax cuts for larger companies might be good for profits but, at the cost of $48 billion over the next 10 years, they will do nothing to create jobs or to secure the revenue for social housing, education, health or social security,” he said.
“Superannuation tax breaks are estimated by Treasury to cost $32 billion annually; by comparison, $20.3 billion a year is spent on Medicare.
“Negative gearing and the discount on capital gains tax cost over $11 billion each year, and the benefits are overwhelmingly skewed towards higher-income earners.”
Dr Falzon said maintaining these tax concessions and giving big business a company tax cut ultimately came at the expense of the education, health and social services that ordinary people relied on.
“Universal healthcare is a precious thing – we need to protect and extend it,” he said.
“We need to make sure that nobody says they cannot take care of their health because they need to put food on the table.
“If you want build a strong economy, it doesn’t make sense to deny your population access to high-quality healthcare.
“Likewise, investing in Gonski, in TAFE, in apprenticeships, in universities and in social and community services should not be seen as charity or welfare; they should be seen as a common good that belongs to everybody, from Australia’s First Peoples through to our most recent arrivals.”
By Mark Bowling