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Federal government is continuing to attack Australian family life

If companies and corporations and businesses, big and small, could vote in elections, I would understand the government's desire to pander to them. If it was only the wealthy who voted, I could understand the government's desire to appease the rich.

Of course, they all play a big part in our society; and, in their own somewhat opaque way, appear to have more influence on our politicians than ordinary voters.

Mr Hockey had originally wanted to rent out the home.
Mr Hockey had originally wanted to rent out the home. 

But what I now fail to understand is this: why don't politicians pander to the ordinary people who vote for them in quite the same way they appease business, big and small, and the rich. Why is their approval so important to the government?

It's become increasingly apparent that this particular government, first under Abbott and now under Turnbull, is continuing to attack Australian family life. All of us: straight, gay, well, sick, able-bodied or those with disabilities, with or without kids; born here or elsewhere.

I cannot think of a single person in our community who is immune. Terrifying is the pretence by ministers than people try to game the disability support pension.

This antagonism to all of us was clearly flagged in 2014, when failed Treasurer Joe Hockey attempted to push through parliament $8.5 billion in cuts, including a limit of Family Tax Benefit Part B to families when their youngest child turns six. I'm guessing many partners of MPs are stay-at-home parents, so nice for them.

But last week, many of those attempted cuts reappeared and were passed straight through the House of Representatives.

Who does that affect? Yep, about 1.5 million families will lose their Family Tax Benefit Part A supplements, which is a cut of more than $700 per child every year. And 1.3 million families will lose their Family Tax Benefit Part B supplements, a cut of more than $350 per family every year. That, combined with the abolition of the School Kids Bonus, will mean single parents with two children in high school will lose nearly $5000 a year.

So the government toys with GST (that freaked us all out and may have assisted the slide in the government's polling) and now it looks to be canvassing a whole range of other nightmares.

This includes the latest hare-brained scheme from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, released on Monday, whereby pensioners get to stay in their family home but their pension is deducted from their capital.

You can imagine the number of people who'd get turfed out of their beloved family homes before their number was up. Not everyone lives in a home in Point Piper. Not everyone's capital would outlast their longevity.

It's hard to imagine a crueller way to make the user pay twice. We pay for pensions when we pay our taxes, in my case, gladly pay my tax. Then, when we manage to accumulate some capital in our homes, instead we pay for our pensions. There's a reason reverse mortgages never really took off in this country.

The good news is that alongside the grasping nature of the ACCI's prebudget submission, those who represent the rest of us can see what the real problems are.

The Australian Council of Social Service's CEO Cassandra Goldie says it plainly: "Genuine tax reform is not about raising or lowering tax rates: it should begin by limiting unfair tax breaks and unintended loopholes that mainly benefit people who are on higher incomes and erode the tax base."

She pleads for those living in poverty. At least someone does.

"It's time to abandon an approach that simply shifts costs to service users, people living in poverty, and state governments. Instead, we should be focused on ensuring services are delivered cost effectively, for example by relying less on subsidies for private insurance in health.

Nick Hopwood, a researcher at the University of Technology Sydney, says it's very important that we consider the kinds of services that support our most vulnerable. Many of those services, particularly around the area of early intervention for children, have no idea one year to the next whether they will be funded.

He says: "Belts are tightening. They are under pressure to show strong outcomes but cut costs."

Even our beloved Australian Breastfeeding Association looks set to take a terrible cut from Health Minister Sussan Ley – and that's just about the earliest intervention of all.

In ACOSS' submission into the family payments structural reform inquiry, Goldie again pleads with those in the Senate to reject the changes to family payments. The submission says the expenditure component of the package, which boosts Part A by $5 a week, doesn't take effect until July 2018.

"It is far too little to compensate families for the losses imposed by other changes … and it takes effect two years after the payment cuts."

It also goes on to point out that there has been no release of an analysis of the impacts of the proposed changes.

"It is vital that there is clarity about how different families will be affected, particularly given that vulnerable children and their families will clearly be affected."

But for me, the most telling yet depressing part of ACOSS' prebudget submission is about childcare: "The relative generosity at the higher end has increased the overall costs of the [childcare] package, which the government is now seeking to pay for through cuts to family payments."

Yes, reward those families with incomes of more than $340,000 a year. They really need it, don't they?

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