Federation Reform that Delivers for the Community
10 November 2015 at 10:58 am
Federation reform is back on the agenda and a hot topic of conversation in the community sector, according to national welfare peak body, the Australian Council of Social Service.
We know that the outcomes of this process could have significant implications for our sector and people experiencing disadvantage. It is therefore important for us to develop a clear vision on what a reformed federation should look like in the interests of the people our vital sector is here to serve.
To that end, ACOSS is holding a forum to bring the community sector together, joined by others from the government and private sectors – to map out this vision.
What model for reform is best able to guarantee access to minimum services for all? How can we prevent the erosion of access to services into the future?
To prepare the groundwork, ACOSS and the State and Territory Councils of Social Service recently released a statement outlining a proposal for legislated “community service guarantees” in areas of shared responsibility, to ensure universal access to affordable, essential services. The statement also sets directions for tax reform to help pay for these guarantees.
We know that government budgets are coming under increasing pressure and are justifiably concerned about some of the supposed remedies that would cut or withdraw vital health, education and welfare services, or shift their cost to the public.
In our Budget submissions and other public statements, ACOSS has strongly advocated for the need to improve the cost effectiveness of services in areas of significant real growth and to strengthen the revenue base. But we have strongly maintained the need to maintain access to essential services like education and health; and to targeted services like affordable housing.
At the heart of our proposal for legislated “community service guarantees” is the need to ensure that essential services will be there for people when they need them.
The ACOSS-COSS statement also highlights the need for a coordinated approach to federation and tax reform so that the revenue base is strengthened at the same time that community service guarantees are introduced. This would help to secure public confidence that increases in public revenue will be put to use to fund essential community services; and that this funding cannot be readily taken away in future.
We will continue to maintain that essential community services should be funded mainly through the tax system, according to people’s ability to pay. One of the options we float is to earmark particular tax revenues to expenditure in community services. For instance, revenue raised from strengthening the Medicare Levy base (by closing loopholes in the personal income tax system), together with reforms to the tax treatment of superannuation for people over 55 years old, could be earmarked to future health care and NDIS services. This would ensure a good fit between future growth in spending and revenues as the population ages. It is a much fairer alternative to higher user charges or increases in regressive taxes to fund health care.
These options and others will at the centre of the upcoming collaborative forum in Sydney, from 23 to 24 November.
Participation will be facilitated by Ann Porcino, of RPR Consulting, who has a wealth of experience in management consulting, facilitation and leadership particularly in the community sector.
The forum will begin with a high level facilitated group discussion on the federation today and the reform process, then move into a policy workshop on ACOSS’ reform proposals, followed by detailed policy group work on models for reform in specific policy areas: health, housing, disability and early childhood education and care. It will finish with a high powered strategic session that promises to leave participants and our sector energised and inspired for the action ahead.
·John Hewson, Economist, Company Director and Former Liberal Party Leader
·Jenny Gordon, Principal Advisor Research, Productivity Commission
·David De Carvalho, Deputy Secretary Strategic Reform and Policy, Families and Community Services (NSW)
·Samantha Page, CEO, Early Childhood Australia
·Chris Twomey, Director of Policy, WACOSS
It’s a great opportunity to participate in the development of a reform agenda that delivers for the community, particularly those on low incomes or experiencing other kinds of disadvantage.
The two day forum will be staged in conjunction with the Centre for Social Impact, who will host day one: Australia’s Social Pulse, followed by day two, hosted by ACOSS: Towards a Universal Service Guarantee: reforming the federation to advance our common wealth and the common good (23-24 November).
We encourage you to attend this important and timely event.
Find out more and register here.