The community is aware that Australia has been losing economic altitude for some time and the oxygen masks have been dropped. All travellers know the drill: put on your own mask before you assist others in need. There are sensible reasons for this that transcends selfishness.  While some say there is no financial crisis – others see the writing on the wall with Australia’s debt burden tripling since the GFC – while in Britain and in Spain which endured a full-blown economic disaster – it merely doubled. Joining the world’s poor will not ultimately assist the poor at all, a change of course is needed.

It’s true that an unforgiving public may only see a broken promise.  Yet as with the flight analogy, the unplanned emergency measures are to ensure a safe arrival at the proposed destination.  The reality of being over-committed generally requires a correction. The average person gives from what they’ve got, rather than borrow to do so: should taxpayers money be handled any differently?

There is nothing in the world stopping taxpayers themselves from increasing their personal contributions to the world’s poor and needy. The indignation raised by many could be turned to increased personal giving; something Australians do well.

Last week was National Volunteer Week. 6 million Australian’s who regularly volunteer to assist others in need may not agree with those concluding that the latest budget reflects a wealthy nation fixated on self interest. What it may reflect is a deliberate culture shift designed to transfer the responsibility of giving from government portfolios to the individual; from mandated support of the less fortunate to an increase in free will giving and the proliferation of community spirit.

Anecdotal evidence of a rising tide of welfare fraud and abuse of Australia’s generosity contribute to community concerns. Those accessing welfare payments illegitimately should shoulder some of the blame for those in genuine need and hardship who will be further disadvantaged and inconvenienced with reassessments and cuts. A system based on honesty fails the honest when abused.

Judith Sloan suggests that the change to Family Tax Benefit that cuts payments when a child turns 6 is ‘likely to do more to promote female labour force participation than the wildly expensive paid parental leave scheme.’

Reflecting on the worsening plight of single mums in The Weekend Australian, Natasha Bita  highlights the concerns of a school crossing supervisor paid $20 an hour for two hours work per week ‘with no holidays or sick leave’. She is worried about cuts to her family payment. Given that thousands of Australian contractors work long hours on minimum pay with no holidays or sick leave, some may consider it over the top to expect holiday and sick pay when working 2 hours a week.

Bita also makes the point that 1.2 million backpackers and temporary migrants are ‘willing to accept wages and conditions that mothers are not in a position to take on’. Perhaps it’s the willingness of businesses to ignore minimum wages and conditions and take advantage of migrants that contributes to mums inability to compete for these jobs? Perhaps blaming the budget masks the real need for greater honesty and integrity among some employers?

We believe giving Australians a fair go will entail recapturing a sense of fairness at a local level; recapturing a willingness to make sacrifices and take personal responsibility, and recapturing a willingness to tackle the rising tide of dishonesty.  It isn’t just foreign aid that’s being cut but local aid as well – which doesn’t reflect a nation or government fixated on self interest at all. Our 6 million volunteers are modelling a different standard.

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