And so it begins — an offensive, on behalf of the Australian ruling class and corporate interests, to steal the future from the majority of Australians, to dismantle what remains of our social welfare system, in order to carry out, in the words of Treasurer Joe Hockey, "the government's solemn duty ... to build a stronger Australia".
Responding to the budget, Australian Council of Social Services CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie told the media: "The real pain of this budget — crushing and permanent — will be felt by people on low incomes, young people, single parents, those with illness or disability, and those struggling to keep a roof over their heads.
"The government managed to find room in the budget to deliver a $4 billion tax cut for business, and major investments in infrastructure and defence."
Matt Grudnoff, senior economist with progressive thinktank The Australia Institute (TAI) wrote in New Matilda on May 14 that the budget cuts, "effectively rob from the poor to give to the super-rich”.
Three prominent Socialist Alliance members have put forward their responses to the budget.
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Tim Gooden, Socialist Alliance member and Secretary of Geelong Trades Hall Council:
"This government's budget will mean tradies and labourers being forced to continue physical work until the age of 70. Self-funded retirement is out of the question for these workers. Their superannuation won't be sufficient, because of the lack of continuous employment, which is a problem in the building industry.
"This is an attack on our entire class. We need a class response, and the union movement has to lead the way. We have got to push this government back, starting with immediate days of action — industry by industry and state by state — culminating in nationally coordinated mobilisations against the cuts.
"Big business is not touched by this budget. In fact, there are plenty of handouts in the form of tax cuts and new infrastructure projects, which will have a direct benefit to the mining, freight and logistics bosses. Roads and rail won't house the homeless, provide universal health care, deliver free education, secure our pensions, or protect the environment — just the opposite.
"All unions have to start to map out a case to educate and mobilise their members around the facts that working people have created the wealth in this country, and have contributed more to the public purse than the super rich and the corporations combined. Workers and communities have fought to protect our public assets and our public health system in the past and we will need to do so again."
Pictured above: Socialist Alliance local councillors Sam Wainwright and Sue Bolton, and Geelong Trades Hall secretary Tim Gooden.
Sue Bolton, Socialist Alliance councillor for the City of Moreland:
"As a local activist campaigning against the proposed East West Link, it's disgusting that the government are attacking pensioners, families and the poor, and making severe cuts to welfare, health and education in order to fund more roads. Road projects such as the EW Link and WestConnex are being resisted by local residents, because they are not needed, and will destroy communities and damage our environment.
"Communities have to organise to resist these attacks, and should link up with unions and social movements against the agenda of this government. Organised union and community resistance successfully defended Medicare in the 1970s, blocked the Franklin Dam project in the 1980s, and more recently, has halted unconventional gas mining in parts of NSW.
"But ultimately, we have to build a political alternative to the big business parties, if we're to secure a safe climate and a society which puts the needs of people before corporate interests."
Sam Wainwright, Socialist Alliance councillor for the City of Fremantle:
"This mob were always going to introduce a budget like this. The question is — how seriously are we going to fight it? The Victorian Trades Hall has called a mass meeting and demonstration, which is a good start. This has to happen in every town and city. This is the time for some serious resistance, not a token demo and then, 'That's it. We've done all we can.'
“If the government is intent on taking us down the path of austerity like we've seen in Europe, then we need to build a movement of resistance like that in Spain and France, where millions of people have mobilised against austerity.
"I think the Greens are wrong to support an increase in a regressive tax like the fuel levy, as it hurts the poorest while doing little for the environment. At the same time, they have announced they will oppose the deficit levy on high income earners. While this is a temporary and inadequate measure, it is still a more progressive tax.
"When you read that the top 75 earners in Australia paid no tax, you start to see where the revenue crisis really lies. We need to remove regressive taxes (especially the GST) and increase the top marginal rate and company tax.
"If the Greens are serious about resisting these attacks, they should commit to blocking the budget in the Senate, as should the ALP.
“Unless we can push the government back now, the budget won't be the end of the pain. Worker's rights and entitlements, including penalty rates are next. A full-bench decision by Fair Work Australia on May 14 means that hospitality workers will have their penalty rates cut by 25% now. Following a review of the Fair Work Act amendments due out in June this year, and the Productivity Commission inquiry, due to report to the government in April next year, further attacks on workers and penalty rates are a certainty.
Budget day may well have been the best day of Hockey's life, but it's up to us to make sure the feeling doesn't last.
[For details of March 18 protests against the Abbott government and its anti-people budget see here. Tim Gooden, Sue Bolton and Sam Wainwright will be speaking at Socialist Alliance's upcoming 10th National Conference from June 7 to 9 in Sydney, which features panels, sessions and workshops open to the public.]