For better or for worse: 10 things that changed today
With the beginning of the new financial year there are invariably small changes to our lives.
Many of these revolve around money. Things like tax cuts, rate changes and increases in family allowance benefits.
The middle of the year also gives us time for more personal reflection: it’s July and I still haven’t taken the bottles from my April birthday party to the recycling bin – just a random example.
But here is a list of ways that things have changed today and The Punch’s evaluation of whether we’re better off for it.
1. Crappy tax cuts introduced
Kevin Rudd committed to these tax cuts before the last election and now has to go through with them.
The promise was made in the heady days of economic boom time when we enjoyed daily joy rides in limousines with Paris Hilton and wore extinct animals on our heads. Now we’re dressing in possums and the best celebrity we can muster is Kochie giving some sage financial advice: “Here’s one folks, ever thought of knitting your dinner?”
Today’s tax cut will provide little more than $2 to $3 a week extra for those earning between $40,000 and $60,000.
Low income earners will now be able to earn about $15,000 before having to pay any tax, but the biggest winner will be those on $100,000 will get just over $10 a week extra.
Verdict: There’s a fair argument that in an environment like this tiny tax cuts should be pocketed by the Government and saved or spent on something more useful. Probably could have done without them.
2. A whole bunch of direct family benefits and rebates
The Family Tax Benefit A (don’t ask me to explain how that works) will rise by $5.60 a for children under 12 and by $7.28 per fortnight for teenagers up to 15. The baby bonus will also increase by $185 to $5185.
Families are set to get a huge windfall in rebates for childcare benefits for one child using full-time care will increase to $180 week while the rebate for a child a year will rise from $278 to $7778 a year.
Verdict: While there’s a lot of complaints about excessive middle class benefits doing the rounds, they’re more worthwhile than dishing out $900 to almost everyone, especially with the introduction of means testing. Money for childcare especially will be a big benefit given its enormous costs to many families. It’s also better than nothing, given the yet to be realised promise of Government-funded parental leave.
3.Same-sex couples now treated like everyone else by Centrelink
Gay and lesbian couples will now have to abide by the same rules of declaring relationships in households when claiming Centrelink benefits. While this can be viewed as a great leap forward in recognising gay relationships, it also means that Centrelink will save money because many people will be shifted to payment of someone with a partner.
Verdict: Welcome gay and lesbian couples to the world of Centrelink finding ways to pay you less.
4.End of financial annus horribilis
The end of June 2009 also marks the end of the worst financial year for over 20 years. The ASX 200 lost nearly 25 per cent from July 1 2008 to June 30, while the All Ordinaries lost 26 per cent in the same period.
Verdict: This sucked for all involved. It doesn’t really matter whether you have money on the sharemarket or not, you’re going to lose out in superannuation. Plus you’re fretting about losing your job entirely. Very glad to see the back of it – assuming it gets better that is.
5.New Industrial Relations laws introduced
Giving a run-down of how the Rudd Government’s new IR bill changes every workers’ entitlements would be a painful and boring exercise. But the shorthand is this: Work Choices is gone and has been replaced by Julia Gillard’s Fair Work Act. It removes the most controversial elements of Work Choices, like AWAs and restrictions on union access to workplaces, but doesn’t go far enough for the unions.
Verdict: Given the last election gave a pretty clear mandate to Kevin Rudd on this issue it seems the Australian people are generally of the opinion that they’d be better off without WorkChoices. The new Fair Work Act strikes a pretty good balance. Unions, of course, will complain that the Government isn’t going far enough. But that’s kind of their job - especially if they want to stay relevant.
6.Hospital takeover deadline arrives
Also during the last election the most significant promise that Labor made in health was that it would take over public hospitals if states (who currently run them, apparently) didn’t improve the job they were doing. Health Minister Nicola Roxon is yet to even say what standards the states would have to meet to avoid a takeover, let alone deciding on the proposals for Governance that the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission gave her.
Verdict: The whole promise was pretty disingenuous and filled with caveats, like a referendum that may not be needed, but that’s not the way they sold it or people interpreted it. Roxon needs to do something on this straight away to avoid appearing as though Labor’s breaking another election promise.
7.States cutting taxes
In an overdue move by the South Australian Government, stamp duty will be abolished on mortgages and rentals. Charities in the Northern Territory will also be exempt from stamp duty while payroll tax will be abolished for workers on parental leave or volunteer work in Western Australia.
Verdict: Well, it’s always good to cut anachronistic state government taxes where you can.
8.States raising shameless money
Of course bucking this charitable trend are the state Government’s in the most financial trouble: NSW, Queensland and the ACT.
Sydney parking prices will go from “outrageous” to “you guys really have no shame, do you?” when the North Sydney and Milsons Point levy increases from $950 to $2000 a year for off-street, non-residential parking spaces. In the suburbs of St Leonards, Chatswood, Parramatta and Bondi Junction the cost will rise from $470 to $710 a year.
There will be no more cheap petrol when you cross the Queensland border anymore. The Government’s axing the 8.354c a litre fuel subsidy.
And the people that pay the highest rates in the country are about to pay more, with the ACT Government increasing the Emergency Services Levy from $91.20 to $94.60.
Verdict: While part of me is glad that Queenslanders no longer get cheaper petrol for no reason, all three increases are shameless revenue raising exercise to compensate for battered budgets.
9.Winning $25 million on lotto would make you feel pretty ripped off
With two people sharing in $110 million dollars in an Oz lotto winning anything less than $50 million would seem pretty lame from now on.
Verdict: Good for them, obviously.
10. Everything about the Michael Jackson story changed again today
In the latest developments: they’re not his kids; they’re not Debbie Rowe’s kids now; and the father Joe Jackson isn’t in the will.
There’s also the claim that he died in an attempt to get out of work.
Verdict: This is an amazing and sad story, but if it turns out he died in an attempt to dodge concert appearances, it will have to be considered the world’s greatest ever sickie.
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