Sector Responds to Economic Statement
5 August 2013 at 11:58 am
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and UnitingCare Australia have called on the Federal Government to make more investments in services that will improve social disadvantage, following the release of Friday’s Economic Statement.
ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said ACOSS welcomed many of the savings measures but believed the Government needs to tackle “Budget waste at the top end” that could pay for essential investments in payments and services for the most disadvantaged in the community, including an increase in the Newstart Allowance and disability care.
“We are extremely disappointed that the Government has cut the aid budget again to raise the $1b needed to fund offshore processing arrangements in PNG," she said.
"This funding should be directed towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals for the world's poorest people, the majority of whom live in the Asia Pacific region, rather than supporting cruel and inhumane domestic policy solutions.
“Similarly the government has again failed our nation’s poorest people by not increasing low income support allowances such as Newstart and Youth Allowance.
“We’ve said that Newstart Allowance is still unfinished business for the Rudd and Gillard Governments, which failed to increase the payment when raised pensions by $32 a week in 2009. With unemployment expected to rise further we’ll see more people forced into worsening levels of poverty in our country.
“The change to the Fringe Benefits Tax on cars, increasing the tobacco excise and the introduction of a bank levy are all sensible measures.
“However the tobacco revenue will drop off long term and the bank levy has a different purpose to funding important social programs like an NDIS, education and health into the future.
"We are pleased that the Government has held the line on the commendable action to remove tax subsidies for private use of company cars and capping the tax deduction for self-education expenses (albeit deferred for a year) in the face of vigorous opposition from well-resourced campaigns.
"The reality is that despite two decades of unprecedented growth our country faces growing inequality. One in eight people are currently living in poverty, including one in six children. This is simply unacceptable.
"Whoever wins government must be prepared to secure a sustainable revenue base to make room in the budget for essential services and increases in income support for the poorest. A measured and considered approach to tax reform and improving productivity are both essential.”
UnitingCare Australia National Director Lin Hatfield Dodds said Australia could afford a strong social-economic framework that supports individuals, families and communities.
“The Australian economy is in good shape and, as a nation, we can afford to provide the services that matter – for all, and for the most vulnerable,” she said.
“We believe that every person has the right to a decent standard of living and look forward to a further reduction in barriers so that people can participate in the world of work and the community as fully as they wish and are able, supported by access to quality social services.”
Hatfield Dodds said UnitingCare Australia welcomed the move to a national fees framework in Home and Community Care (HACC) which enabled people to pay according to what they could afford.
“We urge the Government, and future governments, to align social and economic policy goals and invest in the things that matter to better support a stable and sustainable society,” she said.
“Effective social policy is good economics.”