ACOSS Rejects Calls for Welfare Cuts to Fund Flood Relief
15 February 2011 at 11:25 am
Welfare peak body, ACOSS has rejected calls by business groups for cuts to be made to the disability pension to pay for the flood reconstruction effort.
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has rejected calls for income support payments to be cut to pay for flood reconstruction, following the recent natural disasters.
ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie says they have made it very clear to the Federal Government that cuts to welfare payments, including Disability Support Pensions, would be the wrong approach to take – you don’t help one group of people by plunging another into poverty.
Dr Goldie says any such move would only increase the hardship for people who are already among the most disadvantaged in society.
Dr Goldie called on Parliament to pass the Flood Levy and to find budget savings by removing tax breaks and concession that unfairly benefit higher income earners.
She says it is an ideal time for the Government savings to crack down on tax breaks on golden handshakes and removal of tax shelters on private discretionary trusts, which would raise about $2.5 billion per year.
In its pre-budget submission earlier this week, the Business Council of Australia urged the Gillard Government to make cuts to the disability pension to pay for flood damage in Queensland and Victoria.
Despite polls indicating public support for the proposed $1.8 billion levy, the Business Council of Australia has called for budget cuts to fund to fund the post-flood reconstruction.
In an interview on ABC radio, President of the Business Council of Australia, Graham Bradley called on the Government to consider cuts to the disability pension and foreign aid.
He said the Government needs to be doing everything it can to reduce the incentives, including the tax disincentives for people to go back to work.
Bradley said being a long-term unemployed person is not good for people's psychology – it is not good for their health, it is not good for their recovery.
Dr Cassandra Goldie rejects this argument and says if the Government is serious about lifting workforce participation rates, it should not be cutting already inadequate income support payments.
She says both the Henry Tax Review and the OECD recommend lifting the Newstart payment for people who are unemployed by about $50 per week.
Dr Goldie says the way to help people get back into work is to provide them with the necessary skills, training and incentives, and ensure there is a job for them to take up at the end of it.
Senior Australian of the Year and disability advocate Professor Ron McCallum joined others in slamming the call from Business Council.
McCallum says people with disabilities have the highest unemployment rate of any group in Australia, save for Indigenous Australians.
He says the Government should be establishing programs to assist we persons with disabilities in obtaining employment, and that the disability pension should not be arbitrarily cut simply because of the Queensland floods
McCallum says there is always a case for examining whether persons are appropriately placed upon the disability pension, however for Australians who have disabilities, it is important that where they are unable to obtain employment they are given sufficient funds on which to live and support themselves and their families.