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Treasurer claims poor people don’t drive cars. Misses all the points.

Treasurer, Joe Hockey hasn’t been having the easiest of times selling his Budget.

While he’s conducted endless radio and television interviews, placed opinion pieces in all the major newspapers and repeated key lines attesting to the budget’s financial brilliance in every press conference since May – people just aren’t buying it. No matter how many times Joe tells the Australian public that the budget is good for them – we remain skeptical.

And the Treasurer’s desperation is beginning to show.

On Brisbane radio this week, Hockey was arguing that his budget is a fair one; that the rich as well as the poor will play a role in nursing the ailing budget (because of LABOR) back to health. In support of his proposition, the Treasurer gave the example of fuel excise; arguing that this new tax – which will cause an increase in the cost of petrol – would hit wealthy Australians the hardest.

He said:

The people that actually pay the most are higher income people. Yet, the Labor Party and the Greens are opposing it. They say you’ve got to have wealthier people or middle-income people pay more.… Well, change to the fuel excise does exactly that; the poorest people either don’t have cars or actually don’t drive very far in many cases.

That’s right guys, poor people don’t have cars. And if they do have cars, they only take them out every second Thursday for a quick trip around the block to Centrelink to pick up that dole cheque.

Hockey’s comments have earned him a collective groan of “mate, you really don’t get it” across Australia. The old adage that politicians are out of touch with the people they purport to represent, has never been truer.

And yet, the Treasurer has remained steadfast. Rich people spend more on fuel, REALLY THEY DO! says Joe. The Government has even released graphs and tables to back in Hockey’s comments and doggedly insists that a fuel excise will be felt more intensely by the rich than the poor.

Hockey’s media people have put this information out to the public: If you divide Australian households into five categories – one being the poorest and five being the richest – then the poorest category spend and average of $16.36 on petrol each week. In contrast, the richest category will spend $53.87 on petrol each week.

And you’d be forgiven for looking at those numbers (which are undeniably accurate) and thinking: Well, the Treasurer is right, the rich will be more affected by an increase in the price of fuel in the budget.

But data is all well and good, so long as it actually tells the story it claims to.

The figures that Joe Hockey’s office didn’t release, were the ones that show how much these households earn relative to one another. For a wealthy household who earn upwards of $300,000 a year – $50 a week isn’t something to fret about. But for a low income household – who might be supporting a family on $40,000 a year – $16 a week is a significant part of the household budget.

In fact, when you take into account how much the poorest fifth of Australian households spend on petrol as a percentage of their total worth? Well, they shell out 45 times as much on fuel as the richest fifth of Australians do. Let’s repeat that shall we….?

45 times as much as rich Australians.

So when the Treasurer tells you that putting a tax on fuel will hurt the rich more than the poor, because the poor either can’t afford cars or if they can, don’t drive them very much? You can safely say a clear yet respectful: Bullshit.

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