The federal government announced last month that it had almost wiped out its budget deficit. The deficit for the 2018-19 financial year was $690 million. They had originally forecast a figure of $4.2 billion.
But a closer examination showed that the only reason they almost balanced the books was because they underspent by $4.6 billion on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
While the budget also benefited from higher iron ore prices, they actually underspent by $6.4 billion on a number of social services, including the NDIS.
The government claims that the underspending was caused by a “slower than expected” uptake of people into the program. But its been reported that tens of thousands of people with disabilities are without access to the services they need.
The government has tried to blame the state governments, but it’s clear that this voucher scheme is massively behind schedule.
When the NDIS was introduced we were told it would “revolutionise disability services”. If they meant it would privatise disability care via the backdoor, that would be right. In terms of actually helping people, many report being worse off now.
The government pretends that nothing is more important than getting back into surplus, but we should remember how the deficit came about in the first place. In the aftermath of the 2008 GFC the former Labor government spent billions to prop up big business profits.
In other words, our tax money was sacrificed to put a floor under the profit system. Ever since then, the government has tightened the purse strings while giving corporations tax cuts. These same corporations have then refused to give workers decent pay rises.
While the government’s short-term commitment to a budget surplus is coming at the expense of vulnerable people with disabilities, the whole set up is a rort that has facilitated a huge transfer of wealth from ordinary people to profits.
By Socialist Party reporters