Friday, December 4, 2015

Taxpayers pay for subsidies and tax concessions: Greens

Australian taxpayers have to work nearly one-and-a-half weeks full-time every year just to pay for subsidies and tax concessions for the fossil fuel, superannuation and private health insurance industries, according to the Australian Greens.

That figure is based on the same formula used by Treasurer Joe Hockey last week when he warned taxpayers had to work over four weeks every year ''just to pay for the welfare of another Australian''.

Mr Hockey used his calculation to explain to the right-leaning Sydney Institute last week why Australia's welfare system was unsustainable.

''This year the Australian government will spend on average over $6000 on welfare for every man, woman and child in the country,'' Mr Hockey said.

''Given that only around 45 per cent of the population pays income tax, the average Australian taxpayer must pay more than twice this amount [over $12,000 a year] in tax to refund welfare expenditure.''

But the Greens say that Mr Hockey's calculation can work both ways.

When taking into account the capital gains rebate, the private health insurance rebate, the super tax concessions rebate, fossil fuel subsidies and favourable tax for discretionary trusts, the ''average worker'' must work 1.34 weeks full-time every year, or nearly $2000, to pay for it, the Greens said.

''While Joe Hockey set out to falsely pit those receiving welfare against those in work, the reality is that the 'average worker' works two days a year to fund unemployment benefits,'' the Deputy Greens Leader, Adam Bandt, told Fairfax Media.

''The Greens aren't saying that all of these concessions and subsidies should be removed tomorrow, but just that there should be a factual and informed debate about who the 'end of the age of entitlement' is really hitting.''

It comes after the latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey found working-age Australians have become far less reliant on welfare payments since 2001. The study found that 23 per cent of people aged 18 to 64 received welfare payments every week in 2001, but by 2011 that number had fallen to 18.5 per cent.

Following Mr Hockey's speech last week, an Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) economist, Matt Cowgill, published a graph showing where taxpayers' money is actually spent in the welfare system.

It has been replicated by Fairfax Media to match the government's assertion that the average taxpayer pays more than $12,000 a year to fund welfare.

It shows that each taxpayer will be asked to pay $3640 in 2014-15 to pay for income support for seniors, while $1885 will go towards family tax benefits.

Just $936 of taxpayers' money spent on the welfare system will go towards the sick and unemployed.

Mr Hockey's office said the point of the analogy of full-time work was to highlight the ''very high and growing expenditure on welfare''. 17 June 2014

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