‘Unfair, unreasonable and really demeaning’ – the human face of budget cuts

Helen and Graham Davies: “It’s totally unfair, unreasonable and really demeaning.” Photo: Jay CronanMelba resident Helen Davies has raised three children, supported her husband and helped out her community her whole life. Now she has lost her only source of income.
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The axing of the Dependent Spouse Tax Offset didn’t get much coverage after Tuesday night’s budget, it didn’t clock a mention in the Treasurer’s speech and it will vanish from July 1.

But for Mrs Davies it meant one holiday a year and chance to contribute something to her family’s finances.

Mrs Davies volunteered at her children’s local public school to help troubled students learn to read, as well as working on the school canteen, helping out at fetes and doing the rounds for Meals on Wheels.

“I wanted to do something else for the community, so before my youngest started school we started doing Meals on Wheels. He had a great time, he got chocolate biscuits,” she said.

“That’s what it’s all about, you get out and do something.”

She said she began to receive the tax offset just under 40 years ago, two years after she married her husband, who worked in the public service.

For her, it was a few hundred dollars a year to take the family on a holiday to the coast.

“It helped us have a week’s holiday at the YMCA family camp at Long Beach, just about every year for seven or eight years. We wouldn’t have been able to have a holiday without it, not at all,” she said.

“And my husband was paying 61 per cent tax and up to 19 per cent on our mortgage – we had one income, five people and one car.”

In the budget on Tuesday, the government announced with little fanfare that the Dependent Spouse Tax Offset would be cut along with a range of other measures, including the Mature Age Worker Tax Offset.

Mrs Davies was so upset by the announcement she sent a letter to The Canberra Times, where she wrote she now felt “totally worthless”.

“I’m not the only person who has been unfairly targeted but I feel it’s totally unfair, unreasonable and really demeaning to know that by the time you’re in your 60s the government thinks you are totally worthless,” she said.

“You’re not even worth three or four hundred dollars of your husband’s tax a year. That’s all I am.”

Mrs Davies said the offset had been her one source of income and at the age of 64, there was no way she could go out and get a job.

“Who’s going to employ a 64-year-old woman who has no skills but raising her own children? This government has just totally blown us away,” she said.

She laughed at the suggestion she had a political affiliation, although she said she had contributed to her community for at least 20 years while raising three children.

In the past year, Mrs Davies used what would become her last tax offset payment to take herself and her husband to Sydney for two days to see The Lion King.

“That was just over $300,” she said. “That’s what it means to me. I am actually earning cash to put into the family and we have some sort of holiday with it.

“Two days in Sydney is not the biggest holiday in creation, but it’s something.”

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