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No help for marginalised

Michele Frankeni  |  09 May 2018

Charity organisations have responded to the federal government’s 2018 May Budget with dismay.

Dr John Falzon, CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council, says it is an irresponsible budget that ‘will leave unemployed people, underemployed people, students and those struggling to pay high housing costs worse off’.

‘Critically, the Budget has failed to lift unemployment payments, nor is there any action to address homelessness and Australia’s housing affordability crisis.’

He says modest cuts to income tax for low and middle-income earners will not offset rising costs of living and underinvestment in social and affordable housing, increased out-of-pocket expenses for medical services and aged care, and the lack of adequate and fairly funded education at all levels.

‘If you want to build a nation you’d start with a jobs plan, instead of a putting-the-boot-into-the-unemployed plan. You’d lift Newstart and other low payments for the people this government persists in tearing down, because you don’t build a nation up by tearing your people down.

‘And you don’t reduce inequality by doling out tax cuts to corporations whilst promising a return to surplus that can only come on the back of cuts to expenditure that will hurt everyone bar the wealthy’, Dr Falzon says.

Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie says the Budget tax cuts are the wrong priority at the wrong time and will not help the majority of people on low incomes.

‘It is shameful the government has chosen to ignore the overwhelming consensus to help people on the lowest incomes by increasing the woefully inadequate Newstart and student payments.’

Mission Australia CEO James Toomey is also critical of the adequacy of Newstart and other payments.

‘When we talk about homelessness and affordable housing we also need to think about the incomes that people live on, from which they need to pay the rent, buy food and pay the bills,’ he says.

‘The current rates of Newstart and Youth Allowance do not come close to covering the cost of basic essentials. The government must urgently raise these payments to allow people to afford a roof over their head and to put food on the table. Commonwealth Rent Assistance also needs to be immediately increased to address the rental stress driving people into homelessness. The government has once again made the choice in this Budget not to address these gross inadequacies in income support payments, leaving people to survive on as little as $278 per week.

‘We are disappointed that this issue has been completely ignored in a budget that has both spending measures and tax cuts. It is not a matter of frugality, but of calculated neglect.’

Mr Toomey says the government has missed a chance in the Budget to address rising homelessness. 

The absence of a plan to meet the critical shortage of affordable housing is short-sighted and will only lead to greater social and economic dislocation down the track, he says.

Caritas Australia says the dramatic reduction in Australia's contribution to international aid and development has confirmed its insularity.

CEO Paul O'Callaghan says Australia is stepping away from its goal of being a regional power.

'The Australian aid program is part of a collective international effort to end extreme poverty, promote prosperity and ensure the rights of people are respected. This has achieved huge improvements in public health, access to clean drinking water and the number of children going to school.'

Mr O'Callaghan says the federal Budget's minimalist response to the acute needs of Australia's neighbours on climate change adds to the growing perception of Australia shrinking into its most insular period since the end of the Second World War.  

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash


Topic tags: socialjustice-australia, healthycommunitylife

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