15 May 2013

Letter to the editor - Tasmanian Newspapers

Why do our leaders lack such courage?

While mining companies pull in billions of dollars in profits, in some Tasmanian suburbs there are people who can’t even afford to adequately heat their homes. And while the Federal Government spends billions of dollars of public money on programs that encourage more coal, gas and oil to be extracted and burned, in last night’s budget it indicated that it cannot afford to increase Newstart payments for recipients who are living below the poverty line. While the Government folded to the mining industry’s vehement opposition to the proposed mining tax, it has now laid down significant cuts to tertiary education. And while billions of dollars of fuel subsidies remain in place, it cuts funding for renewable energy programs.

And where are we now – in the red? But does this really matter? What matters more is the equity of it all.

Why is it that the Federal Government single-minded looks at ways to cut back (on the things that really matter) without any real consideration for how to draw in additional funds? This is particularly striking, given that it’s staring them in the face – the mining industry. It is utterly inequitable that the Federal Government does not require those who are obscenely wealthy to share their loot and contribute to making a more equitable society: a society in which everyone has the same opportunities to be healthy and where the social conditions of our lives are conducive to good health – a decent education, job, community, home and family life.

Waiting for the ‘rising tide that lifts all boats’ will see us wait around forever. We know for a fact that the neoliberal panacea of the ‘trickle down’ effect has not stood up to examination. The Government must be courageous, and act on the incoming side of the equation not just the outgoing – cuts to services and programs.

Taxes are good for all of us as a society. Individuals may oppose them but we must look beyond the wishes of the wealthy few to what is good for the greater good, and build a more decent compassionate society.

Miriam Herzfeld
Convener, Tasmanian Social Determinants of Health Advocacy Network

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