Should The Federal Government Cut Social Spending Or Pay Higher Taxes ?

As the budget-time looms, the Federal government is faced with the dilemma: to cut social spending or to charge higher taxes. It has been a constant challenge for governments as they have attempted to balance their books. However, the challenge is increasing as we try to give greater assistance to some of the most poorest people in the community such as those with disabilities, and as the proportion of retired people in Australian society increases.

The adult Australian population was asked whether they thought the government should reduce income tax or increase social spending in the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes in 2009. In the wider population:

  • 49% were in favour of increasing social spending,
  • 27% said it depends, or were unsure, or could not choose, and
  • 24% were in favour of reducing taxes.

It has been the clear policy of the Liberal party to reduce taxes and reduce social spending. This has been evident in many decisions the Federal government has made over the last six months, and, no doubt, will be evident in the nature of the budget they bring down in May.

But it seems that many of their supporters will be disappointed: not least the church attenders. According to this survey, 44 per cent of all church attenders think of themselves as Liberal of National Party voters, compared with just 27 per cent Labor and 1 per cent Greens. (Family First received 6 per cent of the vote of church attenders.)

However, church attenders are keen to see an increase in social spending rather than cutting of taxes (51 per cent to 21 per cent with 28 per cent unsure). They are more keen than people who do not attend church to see an increase in social spending. Even among those church attenders who see themselves as Liberal party supporters 52 per cent agree with increased social spending and just 22 per cent want to see taxes cut.

Why have these church attenders been supporters of the Liberal party if they do not agree with their fundamental orientation to financial management? It seems likely that it is related to the fact that they see the Liberals are seen as more socially conservative and ‘pro-family’ than Labor or the Greens. While they may be happy with the anti-gay marriage stance of the Liberal government and some of its other policies regarding family life, they are likely to be unhappy with its long-term directions in financial management.

More details of this issue and many others are to be found in the Christian Research Association’s book, Life, Ethics and Faith in Australian Society: Facts and Figures. This book can be pre-ordered. The e-book is available from Wednesday 16th April 2014 and the hardcopy on 1st May 2014.

Philip Hughes

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