AUSTRALIA normally does not keep talking about its annual federal budget much longer than a week or 10 days. The populace is inclined to look to its own selfish needs and is largely oblivious to the bigger picture.
But this year is different. The budget was presented to parliament on May 13 and nearly a month later, the government is still struggling to sell it to the public.
This is because there are cuts aplenty, largely for the poor and middle-class, and these have not gone down well. The fees in universities will go up due to deregulation. Petrol costs will go up due to the re-introduction of indexation.
Funds to science bodies like the CSIRO have been cut – this is a cabonet which has no minister for science, yet talks of being the government of innovation.
To balance this, the government claims it will create a medical research fund which will reach $20 billion over six years. It is this fund that puzzles me – where does the money come from?
The government has introduced a $7 payment for the first 10 visits to a doctor and says that some part of this, plus other cuts to aspects of health will make up a $20 billion.
The cuts to the health sector are listed here. They are supposed to make up this huge amount. But it just doesn’t compute.
What I have done is to extrapolate the amounts and see how much they will raise over the six years till 2020.
The first amount listed is $197,100,000 being saved over three years. Doubling that gives us $394,200,000 over six years.
Then there are numerous amounts to be saved over four years:
Totalling up these amounts, one gets $4,925,200,000. Extrapolating for six years, one gets $7,387,600,000.
Then the following amounts are listed as being saved over five years.
Totalling them gives us $5,473,100,000. And working it out to six years, makes a figure of $6,567,720,000.
If all these sums are added up, we get $14,349,520,000. Let’s add a very generous amount of $2 billion as interest over the six years.
That gives us a rounded figure of $17 billion, tops. Where does the other $3 billion come from?