The human cost of a government's economic incompetence
You can tell a lot about a government by looking at its expenditure priorities. Is their spending going towards ensuring that the country’s most vulnerable citizens do not fall through the cracks? Or is cash being splashed around on flashy projects that provide Ministers with a good photo op at the launch site?
It doesn’t take much analysis to determine that the federal Labor Government’s expenditure priorities fall into the latter category, rather than the former.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s latest projects read like the wish list of backroom operators attempting to secure votes in key marginal seats. A brand new hall for every school in Australia? Check. Super fast internet through the National Broadband Network? Check. High speed rail network along the east coast? Check.
All these things sound great in theory. Yet each is accompanied by a multi-billion dollar price tag, and the Labor Government only makes these costs worse with their absolute inability to manage projects competently. The NBN, for example, has had its cost blown out to $50 billion. Hopeless administration of the school halls program saw a blow-out of $1.5 billion in that program. And who knows what the blow-out would be on a $100 billion high-speed rail network project being managed by this Labor Government.
No government has an endless pot of money. Funds wasted in one area inevitably leads to another area missing out. In my own portfolio of disabilities, carers and the voluntary sector, I see the effects of this Government’s waste and appalling spending priorities on a daily basis.
It is a simple yet often ignored truth - people with disability in Australia do not get the support they need. While this Government threw money at the fiascos of the pink batts and school halls programs, Australians with disability struggled to get help for the most basic everyday tasks that they cannot perform alone.
How can a government waste billions of dollars on dubiously thought-out projects when, across Australia, people with disability and their carers are barely holding their heads above water? When ageing carers don’t know who will look after their adult son or daughter with a disability after they die. When children with a physical disability can’t get about easily because they are still on a waiting list for a wheelchair. When an adult with a disability can only shower twice a week because they need assistance to do so and a carer can only visit them twice a week.
The Productivity Commission has estimated that it will cost around $6 billion a year to provide every Australian with disability an adequate level of support. By a mere coincidence, that is roughly equal to the amount the Labor Government pays servicing its debt every year.
Governments these days tend to get their fingers into a lot of pies that they simply do not need to be in. However, providing decent support for people in challenging circumstances for reasons beyond their control should surely be core government business, to be prioritised above wasteful and fanciful spending.
Poor spending priorities and financial mismanagement by a government do not just damage the economy – they have a very real human impact, as any Australian with disability or their carer will attest.