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NFPs Address National Reform Summit Issues

27 August 2015 at 11:45 am
Lina Caneva
Australia’s policy solutions should be more creative around revenue and expenditure and housing affordability must be one of the keys to reform, according to Not for Profit leaders attending a national summit in Canberra.

Lina Caneva | 27 August 2015 at 11:45 am


NFPs Address National Reform Summit Issues
27 August 2015 at 11:45 am

?Australia’s policy solutions should be more creative around revenue and expenditure and housing affordability must be one of the keys to reform, according to Not for Profit leaders attending a national summit in Canberra.

The National ­Reform Summit featured more than 90 corporate, union, welfare, economic and academic leaders discussing ways to build meaningful reform.

The groups reached what they described as an “historic consensus” that Australia faces an “urgent’’ need for economic reform, it must restore the budget to structural surplus within 10 years and must embark on comprehensive tax changes.

Cassandra Goldie                        CEO of ACOSS, Cassandra Goldie at the Summit

Welfare peak body, the Australian Council of Social Service Chief Executive Cassandra Goldie told the Summit that Australia’s policy solutions should be more creative.

“Let’s not turn our back on democracy. We need to bring the community in, not sell it to them,” Goldie said.

“Rather than increasing tax rates, start by closing tax shelters. Start by replacing inefficient taxes like stamp duties with efficient ones like land taxes. Start by treating investment income consistently. In this way, governments can raise more revenue, and do so more fairly and efficiently.

“On spending, let’s start by removing past largesse, not hitting those who can least afford any losses. We should curb wasteful spending to invest in areas of chronic neglect, such as disability services, mental and dental health, and the poverty-inducing Newstart Allowance.”

Goldie also said Governments need to become “ smarter” in the way they fund and deliver services.

“Too little investment is made in prevention, and too often subsidies to the private sector benefit only providers rather than expanding care, including through the private health insurance rebate and the Extended Medicare Safety Net,” she said.

“Poorly targeted expenditure programs that were expanded during the boom years need to be re-designed to make the most of new innovations, reducing costs to make room for other priorities where yawning gaps, including the NDIS, mental and dental health, and the poverty-inducing Newstart Allowance payment for people who are unemployed.

“All of these options – revenue and expenditure – should be considered. We need to move beyond simple slogans and combative politics, look together at the evidence, and give the community an opportunity to debate them.

“Today is a chance for us to commit firmly to searching for that common ground and to stay the course on the hard debates.”

ACOSS director of policy Jacqueline Phillips said Australia had “far too low participation” for particular cohorts — Indigenous Australians, those with disabled, elderly employees — and discussions should tackle this.

She also highlighted that welfare recipients are now receiving payments for longer.

“Around 70 per cent of those on Newstart allowance are on it for over a year,” Phillips said.

Housing policy peak National Shelter argued that housing tax reform and long term Commonwealth leadership on housing affordability are essential to achieving the aims of the Reform Summit.

“Economies are made up of households and the single biggest factor in households thriving, or not, is housing availability and affordability,” National Shelter Executive Officer Adrian Pisarski said.

“National Shelter is seriously concerned that the Commonwealth Government has been signalling an exit from housing policy – a ludicrous situation when negative gearing and capital gains tax exemptions have such huge impacts on housing markets.

“We need a National Housing Strategy to underpin Australian productivity and living standards agendas.

“The ‘get a good job’ tactic doesn’t work if there is not a house to be had within commuting range of that job and Sydney and Melbourne don’t have sufficient jobs at that level.

“The Federal Government must be leaders in housing strategy, for the sake of both our economy and living standards.”

The Reform Summit issued a Statement which said in part:

Groups represented at the summit want Australia to take action now so that these challenges are met earlier rather than later – before problems become crises.

We believe with action now we can reverse these trends and secure:

  • Rising productivity that is shared throughout the community

  • Continued access to world-standard healthcare and education;

  • Maintenance of an effective social safety net ;

  • Further progress on closing the gap in outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;

  • Improved access to quality child care, youth services, aged care and disability services;

  • Improved access to affordable and appropriate housing; and

  • Protection of our natural environment.

The groups at the National Reform Summit recognise the important role they play in helping to achieve this vision.

We agree that too much of the current debate is consumed by special interest lobbying and single-issue politics at the expense of the broader community interest.

All major political parties need to take action, and reach a bipartisan view on the major challenges we face as a nation. There needs to be a clear, long-term plan, implemented with purpose over the next decade to meet these challenges to help guide the community through the necessary adjustment.

The groups we represent also have a special responsibility to advocate and support economic and social reform.

By coming together we aim to agree on the problems that need to be solved to achieve inclusive economic growth.

For the purposes of the National Reform Summit, four areas of reform have been chosen: lifting productivity growth and workforce participation; tax reform; fiscal policy for a growing economy; and sustainable retirement incomes.

While these policy areas do not cover the field of economic and social reform, they are essential for a strong economy and a fair society.

Former Trade Minister Craig Emerson said in a summary of the summit proceedings that there was agreement that reform was  now urgent.

“The whole purpose of this summit is to prepare Australia for an economic downturn that might come from overseas … including consequences for the disadvantaged,” he said.

He said Summit attendees had all acknowledged that youth unemployment was unacceptably high.

“Reducing wages or working longer hours was not the basis of increasing productivity according to the leaders gathered,” he said.

He said fiscal policy should ensure inter-generational fairness and inefficient taxes should be replaced by “more efficient uniform taxes”.

“In terms of retirement incomes policy; there should be a “holistic approach” rather than piecemeal changes and we should see “bipartisan support on the goal of a retirement income system”.

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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