Targeted Social Investment Needed - Shorten
26 June 2015 at 4:22 pm
Federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten has used a community sector conference to criticise the Government’s approach to welfare policy and the recent Budget.
In his speech to the ACOSS National Conference, attended by more than 300 representatives from civil society, Shorten attacked a number of the government’s budget measures including unemployment benefits, changes to the aged pension and family payments.
“The current government is fighting for their own power, their own jobs, their own privileges… which is irreconcilable with the national interest,” Shorten said.
“Instead of taking steps to address Australia’s growing inequality – and therefore enhance growth – the government is continuing its savage attack on low and middle income earners.”
However Shorten assured delegates that inequality and inclusion were on the national agenda.
“Ever since the global financial crisis rocked the foundations of our world economic order a host of leaders from across the political spectrum have emerged a rethink between equality and prosperity,” he said.
“Diverse voices are all saying the same thing, inclusion is the key to growth.
“Equality is not a dividend of economic growth it is a precondition… we can only plough the fields of prosperity by acting to end inequality.”
In stark contrast to the speech made earlier in the day by the Minister for Social Service Scott Morrison, in which he said the welfare sector required private investment to thrive, Shorten told delegates that a strong system of targeted social investment is essential to the progress of our economy and our society.
Shorten said that the recently released ACOSS report, Inequality in Australia, confirmed what had been known for a long time.
“More than 20 years of economic growth – an unprecedented stretch of national prosperity – simply has not delivered for every Australian,” he said.
“We have more riches than any other nation but we have less fairness than we should. In the midst of our great wealth many Australians do not feel safe, not do they have secure work, nor do they have access to permanent homes.”
Shorten referred to what the Labor party calls “social investment”.
“For every dollar we spend on welfare we reduce inequality twice as effectively as any other nation,” he said.
“And on the flip side, cutting social security payments in Australia increases inequality twice as fast.
“Any aspect of an economic program should be to build confidence and opportunity and hope… the right decisions cannot be made while fairness is discouraged.”
Shorten said the Abbott Government had proposed cuts of $8.5 billion from the pockets of Australian families.
“Family payments go to families to help with costs of raising children. They help to ensure every child has a good start in life,” he said.
“Mr Abbott’s cuts are bad for families, they’re bad for children they make it much harder for Australian families to make ends meet.
“Simply telling them [the underprivileged] to have a go is not enough. It is time to unleash the unharnessed possibilities of all Australians.
“This means treating people with respect, not finger wagging blame. Simply letting Australians believe that they should journey through life with no prospect or faith in what they can contribute to their fellow Australians is weak, is wasteful… it’s a tragedy. We can do better.”