It was budget night tonight, and like a good citizen, I listened to what Swan had to say. And frankly, I wasn’t overly impressed. Yes, they promised a boring budget, and a boring budget it was, but what really, really bugged me was, once again, the obsession with “working families”.
SIX TIMES the phrase was used in a speech that wasn’t very long. Six times Swan mentioned the benefits of this budget for “working families”.
Several things bug me about the phrase. First, it’s the ambiguity. What, exactly, constitutes a working family? One parent working? Two? What about a family where the kids are all at school, but only one parent works? Is that still a working family? Is it income-based? Can a family with two top-bracket incomes be considered a working family? Must one have kids in order to be a “family”? If so, do those kids have to be dependents?
But more than the ambiguity around what the phrase includes, it’s the very obvious matter of what the phrase excludes: single people. As if managing on one income isn’t difficult enough, without the considerable financial benefits of sharing things like rent, food, and bills, we are constantly told by politicians that we don’t count.
For all the bitching about Generation Y, we have some real, legitimate things to complain about. Like the fact we’ll leave university with a $20,000 debt. Like the fact we can’t enter the property market for less then ten times our annual income. Like the fact we not only have to pay taxes that will pay pensions for those whose careers pre-dated super, but also pay into our super, ensuring future generations won’t have to pay for us. We are the generation that are being double-dipped. The Baby Boomers get the benefits of the property boom, while we’re paying their pensions and struggling to scrape together a deposit on a house.
We’re not apathetic. We do care. Outrage over environmental inaction and the internet filter must surely have shown that. So when will Australian politicians get over their fetish with working families, and start speaking to the young singles of generation Y, the voters of the next 50 years.