Forget the bluster, noise and chimera of politics.
There are matters at stake that are above politics, and – let's be frank – beyond the imagination of Canberra-centric thinking, whether we're talking about responses to climate change, the pursuit of a just and fair tax system, or the basic tenet that everyone should be able to access a decent life.
We know that Australian society is becoming less egalitarian. Inequality is on the rise. Those who have money and resources and opportunity are doing better and better, but those who struggle to make ends meet and whose lives are circumscribed by disadvantage, are doing worse and worse.
Whether due to family commitments, health or other matters, there are members of our community who need additional support. An increasing number of children and young people are caught up in the financial hardship faced by their parents – including being affected by family violence and breakdown, unstable housing, inadequate food, medical and dental care, and being unable to participate in community or educational activities.
Now is not a time for policy combat and people getting left behind. Now is a time of relative prosperity and a time to embrace the ability of our nation to nourish all, including the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our communities. The language of tough choices and cost-cutting is the language of the political class.
In the real world, our economy is strong and, compared to other countries similar to ours, Australia can afford to restore our tax to GDP ratio to fund the things that matter. Providing health, education and social services will require collecting more tax.
It's not a tough choice. It's a no-brainer.
Lifting tax as a share of GDP to at least the 23.7% level of 2007, up from around 20% in 2010-11, would better enable us to pay for what we value. Using revenue to raise benefit levels and enhance support for services such as child care, job coaching and aged care would improve capacity and motivation, and help ensure no one misses out.
We know that growing up in poverty is a key risk factor for living with long- term financial hardship as an adult, so actions that reduce the risk of poverty in families are crucial.
Adequate income support payments enable people to access the resources they need to live a decent life and improve their capacity to fully participate in society. People need adequate income to live with dignity.
People should also be able to access adequate income support to transition out of welfare and into stable employment and/or education. We can have a society in which everyone belongs, is valued and can contribute.
People are Australia's greatest asset. Ensuring all Australians have the means and opportunity for a decent life requires a healthy economy delivering sustainable growth, government policies that put people at the centre, and effective and well-targeted revenue collection. Tax is the price we pay for a decent society. The values of a society are revealed, sometimes in stark relief, in how we treat our most vulnerable citizens.
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