My life, designed by me.
I recently lost my brand new shiny job. I actually spent more time knowing I had a job than actually working in the job. Oh how I loved it. To come home bone tired knowing that I had been earning money again. The feeling of my brain stretching and remoulding to accommodate the new things I was learning. My brain was so excited to be exercised again!! I was brimming with happiness, I was working around the corner from my bestie, in the city, my beloved city of Melbourne that I would live right smack in the centre of if I could. Then, with one announcement of policy change, 28 years of taxation law was denounced and my industry hit the skids. I was out of job 5 days after the Federal Treasurer made the announcement.
I am pissed. I am very fucking pissed. So I wrote the following. I have forwarded it to my Local Member of Parliament.
“I lost my job last week as a result of the Rudd Government’s abrupt announcement of reforms to Fringe Benefits Tax on July 16. The snap decision to abolish the almost 30 year old statutory rate method of calculating a Fringe Benefits Tax concession on salary packaged vehicles has decimated salary packaging firms, fleet sales and the automotive industry. Contrary to some reports and beliefs, the FBT concession on vehicles is not a loophole, it is a legal concession available to most people who salary package. This blindsiding announcement by the Labour Government has decimated businesses and lives in one fell swoop, with no consultation or forewarning to the industries involved.
Treasurer Chris Bowen made the announcement on the morning of July 16, 2013 and makes this statement on his ministerial website:
“Claims that the FBT changes will cause massive damage to industry are alarmist and irresponsible”
Directly refuting this claim, salary packaging firms NLC and Selectus have terminated 224 staff between them since the announcement. In the immediate aftermath of the announcement McMillan Shakespeare were forced to halt trading on the Australian stock exchange as their stock value went into free fall. Ford, Holden and Toyota have also made staff cuts as fleet sales account for approximately half of their business.
I obtained my job in the salary packaging industry less than a month ago and started work on July 15. By lunch time on July 16 the shock from Mr Bowen’s announcement had resonated within my workplace and the undercurrent of confused anxiety was palpable. In the words of my former CEO: “we were blindsided”. By Monday July 22 at 2pm, I was unemployed. On my birthday just to make it sting a little more. Unlike some across the industry, I did not have any redundancy payments or accruals to soften the financial blow. I had been in my new job a week.
Automotive fleet companies and salary packaging business models are structured within the parameters of this almost 30 year old tax legislation. The proposed reforms should have been consultative with industry. Assistant treasurer David Bradbury has admitted that industry was not consulted for fear of creating a last minute influx of novated leasing agreements to preempt the changes. This reeks of dishonest and underhanded politics and a Government that believes it is above accountability. The ignorance of the widespread effects this change has had only serves to foster a sense of callous untrustworthiness toward the Labour Government.
The majority of people who salary package a vehicle are teachers, nurses, charity workers, miners and public sector employees. Mr Bowen has spin doctored the practice of salary packaging vehicles to appear that high level senior executives and corporate fat cats are abusing a tax loophole and effectively stealing from Australian taxpayers. The Rudd Government’s swift and merciless announcement of the FBT reforms seems to indicate that they fancy themselves as Robin Hood and his Merry Men, taking a benefit from the rich and passing it onto those less well off in the form of removing the carbon tax.
Rudd refers to job losses surrounding the FBT reforms as ‘adjustments’. He has ignored requests from salary packaging and automotive industry representatives to meet and discuss the reforms. Despite Mr Rudd’s verbal assurances last Wednesday to the president of the Australian Salary Packaging Industry Association, Mr Leigh Penberthy, no meeting has taken place and further assurances from his office have not been forthcoming. Mr Rudd’s subsequent announcement of his radical new asylum seeker policy only three days after the FBT announcement appears to be a well calculated nail in the coffin for the salary packaging industry.
TV cameras attended my former workplace on Friday July 19, 2013 and the company CEO was interviewed, to illustrate the impact that the change was having on our workplace. The segment never aired, Rudd’s well- timed asylum seeker agenda announcement bumping the FBT issue into the abyss of old news.
It is not old news to me. I imagine it is not old news to anyone who has lost their job since July 16. . Every day when I wake up with nowhere to go to make a living I remember why. Mr Rudd, I am the face behind one of your ‘adjustments’. Although simply an adjective to you, my own adjustments reverberate beyond just losing my job. I have to adjust mentally to the upheaval of working full time and then suddenly not. I have to cancel my childcare and pay fees associated with that. I have to subject myself to the arduous and emotionally exhausting process of the job hunting game when I just want to work.
Mr Rudd I urge you to least acknowledge the people and companies that were affected by your abrupt decision without warning. I am a real person with a face and a name and a story. Just like all the other people whom you referred to as ‘adjustments’.”
I have learnt an important lesson from this experience. Never ever think that politics is a realm that is out of reach and you can’t have an impact. For the first time I feel like I have a political voice and I am going to make myself heard.
Image Credit: Katheryn Emily.
Image used under license.