Saturday afternoon saw a flutter of tweets speculating about what might be served up to us plebs after Labor MPs return to Canberra early to solve the cost-of-living crisis and their slump in the important but not important at all polls.
Better late than never, I guess.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has called Labor MPs back to Canberra nearly two weeks early to discuss the cost-of-living crisis facing Australian households.https://t.co/LBrlJ6m3eO
— Gary Buckley™ (@myrddenbuckley) January 20, 2024
I have my theories about what is possible and likely. And since I have a personal blog I get to write about them, with no qualifications other than I, too, am here in this country at this time, reading news and feeling the vibes.
Extending the energy rebates – This is an easy one as they’re only set for this financial year, so Labor will pop them into the May budget and probably even further expanded. I know they vary by state, but people already receiving concessions on their bills here in NSW got $125 a quarter off their bills automatically, and it was recently expanded to more families, but you have to apply. Not sure if they’ll up the value, or give it to more people. But it will be there for 24/25 and in place for the 2025 election.
Increasing the energy supplement in welfare payments – This famously hasn’t risen since its introduction in 2013 is it isn’t indexed. I get $10.60 a fortnight as a partnered disability pensioner. Could I see them doubling that supplement? Maybe? No, it’s not a huge amount extra, but it’d be extra targeted at the poorest on a hot item. It wouldn’t come in immediately though, might not even be til September if it’s a May Budget item.
Back to school payments – Yeah, it’s always a hot topic at this time of year, how expensive it is to send kids to public school, uniform and shoe costs, materials, backpacks, laptops and more. But it seems more pointed this year, perhaps it comes alongside the increasing stories of families living in tents, when they then have to find money for a laptop, let alone a place to reliably use it or charge it. It would be popular and really couldn’t be criticised. Cash payments to parents of school aged kids, non-means tested would be the fastest way and the most effective – but they do love their vouchers :/ It would take immediate heat off the government too, because they’ll need sometime that looks like it’s happening NOW, and feeding a clothing kids looks good.
Welfare Payments – I don’t see an increase to base rates happening this budget outside indexation, which is why I think the energy supplement may be a way to go about increasing the amount people are getting slightly, without angering the usual. I mean I WANT them to raise all payments above the poverty line, and I will push for that and ask for that and make arguments for it. But I don’t see it coming from this meeting, and not in the May budget. Would we believe them in they take it the the election though without any significant movement in the previous years? Yeah nah. That ship has sailed for Labor and unless they do blindside us in May with significant increases, particularly at the JobSeeker and Youth Allowance rates, noone’s going to believe their “good intentions” come 2025.
Rejig of Stage Three – Greg Jericho and The Australia Institute have done the legwork for them, giving them a model that flattens out the cuts a bit more while not removing them completely. You need to remember Labor voted for the bill in the first place and have been extremely insistent on keeping that promise to the top end. It also leaves them with money to put towards those other payments. I mean, they COULD just bring back the Low and Middle Income Tax Offset that was so sorely missed last year, that hit a lot of people unexpectedly. It’s an option. They won’t scrap stage three though.
Business business business (is this working?) – I really don’t know or care what they do for businesses, I’m sure that there will be heaps. Yeah, my partner is self employed but we really don’t get any of the subsidies and such that are out there at this level *shrugs*
From the previous cost of living measures that haven’t excited me all that much, I don’t think this meeting will bring more rent assistance, and while personally more money is nice rent assistance is way too little too late and not given to enough people. They need to buy more public housing now, since building is going to take forever. Acquire vacant properties, put them in the public housing pool in a couple of months. Maybe they’ll extended the increased medicare bulk billing incentive? But to who and how? And is it too late with doctors dropping bulk billing as I type? They won’t do anything with medicines, that was already a big one. Unless they lower the safety nets? Personally I need less upfront costs for medical care and medicines, not rebates that kick in later. If I avoid the doctor cos the upfront cost is too high, I’ll never reach the safety net. And I’ll be more expensive down the track.
What do you think will come out of Wednesday’s meeting and the May budget and will it actually make a difference to you?