Thursday, January 10, 2013

'Bonus' or 'refund'? Sexing up the 'Schoolkids Bonus'

Look at these balloons below, just lifting away the expenses of a child's education. It's magic!



It's difficult not to be cynical after Labor rolled out a television advertisement today showing a volley of these bright red balloons lifting up all manner of objects associated with education; books, bags, and... guitars?

Apparently the $420 bucks for little Jill in primary or $820 for little Jake in high school will even go so far as to pay for a guitar and associated costs, not to mention a bunch of sporting equipment.

And this payment is so cool, folks, the government has even seen fit to make 'school kids' all one word, into 'schoolkids' - doesn't that just scream education?

Making a bastardised word by running two words together - obviously this is all about education, and all about your child's educational future.

It's also difficult not to be cynical about this payment, because it already existed, in fact, it's existed for decades, only to be repackaged by Labor into a funky, happenin' thing.

Previously, it was known as the Education Tax Refund. The only difference being, a parent was required to keep receipts and recover the same amount of money through a tax refund.

So, it is at least more than a name change. But Labor could not simply change the name of the otherwise inconspicuous tax refund and call it their own brainchild; they did in fact have to remove some of the paper work, and possibly consult a marketing company to dress it up a bit.

And that in itself is not such a bad thing. A refund for education expenses is a great idea - besides tuition costs, education and rearing a child is an expensive endeavor - why else would the government pay you $5,000 a pop for making one?

It's just simple logic.

So, is this the 'Education Revolution' that Australians were promised? Shiny red balloons lifting up cricket bats and a generic dictionary?

Apparently so. That, along with NAPLAN, which I would dare say does not have one friend among teachers, is apparently making for smarter kids, even though Australia internationally ranks 27th out of 48 countries for reading alone.

Well, at least we're up there with Lithuania.

And further, higher education is not the government's interest. As it stands, the government is really only concerned in teaching your son or daughter how to read, write, add, and subtract, just barely enough to soldier away in low-skilled and low-paid employment.

The Australian government is consistently not concerned with your child going to university, where they would be forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars back in fees, even for the most basic of bachelors; and there will be no cute red balloons to save them, with Youth Allowance being three times less than the dole.

However, would it really be such a trial to keep receipts for schools costs - after all, mostly all tax paying adults in some way or another are smart enough to keep track of their entitled refunds, and tax reforms are continuing to unravel some of the red tape associated with the system.

At the present moment, single parents (although the media only ever refers to them as 'single mothers') are facing the prospect of being transfered from the single parenting payment to the old and stale Newstart payment, which has recently featured heavily in the news for not being nearly adequate enough as it stands, and also not being nearly enough to raise a child.

One could argue personal responsibility, but as we know, not everything in life goes according to plan, and not everything is easy. At the crux of it, a child who finds him or herself in this circumstance has the right to be properly clothed, fed, and educated, even if that means the government taking up the slack - because who else will?

Forcing single parents to work is one option. A most likely result will be minimal wage, casual unskilled work, and work that isn't guaranteed or permanent. Factor in child care, and the parent may find that him or herself might be better just not working, which is probably the reason they (partly) choose to be unemployed.

Perhaps the government felt the need to spruik the Schoolkids Bonus as a means of softening the blow to single parents - "sure, your parenting payment may just be about to be taken away, but never mind that, if you have a couple of kids at school, here's a grand!"

Tax benefits, home owner grants, baby bonuses, healthcare rebates, childcare rebates, school kid bonuses...

I wonder just what is wrong with the private wages system if the government constantly feels the need to sweeten it with a volley of governmental supplements for the act of reproducing.

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