Welfare and Foreign Aid Budget Losers
14 May 2013 at 10:31 am
International aid and welfare payments are expected to be the losers in today’s Federal Budget – the sixth budget by Treasurer, Wayne Swan.
International Aid agency Oxfam Australia says Prime Minister Julia Gillard has failed an important test in keeping her promise to increase support to the world’s poor.
The Federal Government has already revealed it plans to again delay an increase in overseas aid levels to 50 cents in $100 of national income while diverting further funds to pay for asylum seeker programs in Australia.
Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said the continued raid on the aid budget shows the government cannot be trusted to keep its word.
“This is the Prime Minister’s harshest punch yet in a series of blows to the world’s poor. The government’s latest broken promise on aid is a further cut to those who can least afford it.”
However, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Senator Bob Carr says the Gillard Government will increase Australia's Official Development Assistance to a record $5.7 billion in 2013-14.
"While it is disappointing that the Millenium Goals have been pushed back, it simply reflects the reality that you can't borrow money to spend on aid," Senator Carr said.
“Australia remains committed to increasing its aid budget to 0.5 per cent of gross national income.”
Community welfare groups have also expressed deep disappointment that the Federal Government will not increase the Newstart Allowance payment in the Budget, despite growing community support.
“We welcome the news that the income free area will be increased to allow people on the $35 a day payment to keep more of the money that they earn. However, this will do nothing for the 4 out of five people on Newstart who cannot get into paid work and have no other earnings,” the CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service, Dr Cassandra Goldie said.
“Increasing the income free area is only one part of the package and does nothing to help the most disadvantaged groups. We must address the inadequate allowance payment rates that have been effectively frozen in time for the past 20 years.”
“Allowing people to earn a bit more alone does not respond to the damage that has been done to around $80,000 single parent families,” Terese Edwards from the National Council for Single Mothers and their Children said.
“The Government has ripped $700,000 million dollars out the pockets of needy sole parent families, and will give around $300 million back to a potential pool of around 800,000 people on Newstart. This is simply inadequate,” Edwards said.
Maree O’Halloran from the National Welfare Rights Network said that increasing the income free area to $100 per fortnight will assist many of the people who call our Centres across Australia who are struggling to find full-time work.
“The increase may also encourage more people on Newstart to take up casual shifts.”
“Lifting and indexing to the earnings thresholds, access to education support through the Pensioner Education Supplement and extending access to the valuable Pensioner Concession Card are important reforms. They could have been properly applauded if they had been accompanied by the much –needed increase to Newstart.”
"We urge the community, business, the ACTU and all members of the Federal Parliament to continue to support a much needed $50 per week increase to the single Newstart Allowance and improved payment indexation arrangements," O'Halloran said.
The Treasurer is expected to announce the funding for the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse to be more than $430million over 10 years.
Additional long term funding for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Gonski Education program are also expected to be revealed.
UnitingCare Australia’s National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds said that long term social priorities can be delivered in this year’s Federal Budget by redistributing existing revenue and scaling back wasteful tax concessions.
“The starting point for the 2013 Budget is that the economy is performing well, but is vulnerable to weak international conditions. While this context does not give the Government a lot of room to move, it highlights the importance of not wasting money on tax concessions that have little merit,” Hatfield Dodds said.
“Budgets are all about choices and priorities. There are opportunities to fund important programs by scaling back tax concessions that do nothing for everyday Australians.
“New spending on disability insurance and education reforms will help give every Australian a fair go. We need to make sure that funding and taxation decisions also support a fair go.”
Wayne Swan has said that infrastructure funding is at the heart of tonight's budget – emphasising job creation and a longer term boost to productivity from better road, rail and freight facilities.
The Budget speech will be delivered in Federal Parliament at 7.30pm.