So Now It Is All About Fairness
13 May 2015 at 11:11 am
For the charity and Not for Profit sector, the appeal to fairness in the Hockey 2015 Federal Budget should be seen as a foothold for a more significant discussion about the kind of Australia we want to live in, writes David Crosbie, CEO of the Community Council for Australia.
It is very clear from the presentation of this budget that political party polling is showing the issue of fairness has very strong cut through in Australian communities.
There is even a separate little booklet in the 2015 Budget papers about delivering fairness. In many ways this is a positive story – the values that are so intrinsic to the work and purpose of charities and Not for Profits in all our communities are also important to Australians.
The typical budget analysis of “what does this mean for me” is no longer the only consideration. Political parties and commentators are now considering “what does this mean for us”. This approach is much more aligned to the CCA view that we are more than an economy and need to work towards the Australia we want.
If we believe the Budget figures, there is also a good story about the economy within this Federal Budget. The projections for growth in the Australian economy are strong (some critics see these growth projections as overly optimistic) and despite a projected increase in unemployment over the next 12 months, there is a projected reduction in unemployment in the longer term (again some may question these future year projections).
The main new initiatives in the Budget seek to stimulate small business by providing tax cuts as well as additional write-offs for capital acquisitions, amongst other measures. There is also another significant increase in security and anti-terror programs and new measures to reign in untaxed multinational company profits and trading activities.
For the charity and Not for Profit sector there is a mixed bag of cuts and new spending.
The capping of FBT meals and entertainment expenditure at $5,000 per year has already been announced and most people within the charities sector will not be significantly impacted, although higher paid employees will not receive the same level of tax concession.
It is interesting that the Australian Medical Association has been the most vocal critic of the Government on this measure. The Treasury indicated that many medical specialist have been claiming high levels of tax concessions using the meals card. The blow out in the FBT tax concession for meals and entertainment was over 100 per cent with what was previously $115 million cost to Government growing to well over $300 million in three years making the capping of this concession inevitable. It is disappointing that the savings have not been reinvested in stimulating the Not for Profit sector.
The Budget details in each program area deserve further scrutiny. Some of the measures that given emphasis by the Treasurer included new positive programs for unemployed people, a partial back down around the six months youth unemployment wait time and a new transition to work program. There is some extra money for some childcare, carers, medical research and in home care. There are also many areas where cuts have been made. Previous cuts to projected health and education funding for the States, social services, overseas aid and other areas all remain.
Some measures could be interpreted as Australia is becoming smaller and meaner – less spending on overseas aid, increased taxes on Visa applicants and backpackers, the crackdown on welfare recipients.
For me, there are echoes of the lifters and leaners, them and us, view of the world.
As someone previously involved in the mental health space, the wait-another-year approach seems inadequate, but I am sure many areas face similar concerns around lack of investment.
CCA will be reviewing the details of the budget with our members and considering the impact across the broad range of programs and services.
This was not a reform Budget. There were no major changes in the way we tax and distribute money in Australia. It was a repair budget, but not so much financial repair as trying to build a more positive sense that the Government is being fair.
For the charity and Not for Profit sector, the appeal to fairness should be seen as a foothold for a more significant discussion about the kind of Australia we want to live in.
CCA will be holding post budget briefings in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney over the coming week – contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
About the Author: David Crosbie is the Chief Executive Officer of the Community Council for Australia (CCA), and a member of the Advisory Board to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC).