First Act of Parliament to Impact Vulnerable Australians
Monday, 22nd August 2016 at 12:21 pm
A coalition of welfare organisations has condemned the government’s proposed cut to social security payments, which is said to be the first order of business for the new Parliament.
The group, including the Australian Council of Social Service, along with Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union, Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, Carers Australia, Jobs Australia, People with Disability and the Welfare Rights Centre, said removing the energy supplement would impact vulnerable Australians.
In jointly-written letters, they called on Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten to keep the supplement, which is included in a $6.5 billion budget savings bill to be introduced after Parliament resumes on 30 August.
ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie told Pro Bono Australia News the government’s budget approach was one sided and “deeply unfair”.
“We’re deeply concerned that the way that the government’s approaching its first weeks of the new Parliament, it looks very much like the way that the previous government approached its federal budget in 2014,” Goldie said.
“We’ve got a proposal by the federal government to cut the incomes of people who are on the very lowest incomes in Australia, people who are on the unemployment payment, carers, people with disability, single parents… by the removal of the energy supplement.
“At the same time… the government is wanting to provide tax breaks for people on higher incomes and… pursuing a comprehensive cut to the company tax rate.
“We are again seeing a very uneven, deeply unfair, and, in our view at this point, unconscionable approach to the government aspirations of us being able to return to a balanced budget.”
In its letters to the leaders, the group said people who were unemployed and on benefits such as Newstart, living on $38 per day, faced losing a minimum of $4.40 a week, while someone earning $200,000 would receive $6 a week in personal income tax cuts.
“How can this possibly be argued to be a fair, responsible approach to addressing the budget challenges that we do have,” Goldie said.
“It would be an extraordinary turning of the back on people who are on the lowest incomes for us to allow the Parliament to pass a real cut in the level in the unemployment payment at a time when we need to… properly increase it.”
She said organisations needed to maintain the pressure on politicians.
“We’ve not had any response from either party… I think it is up to the community… to ensure that we are absolutely providing clear advice to the parliamentarians about where budget savings can appropriately be made,” she said.
“There are a large number of areas where we believe that reform would both help to address revenue and also be good policy, but it does not include cutting the income level of people who are the poorest in Australia.
“ACOSS and many others, including the business community, the union movement and commentators have been expressing concern about the deeply inadequate level of the unemployment payment.”
While the Coalition called on Labor and the crossbench to support the $6.5 billion budget savings, it appears that Shorten will not make a deal with the government.
During the election campaign Shorten accepted the cuts, but last week changed his stance.
“Obviously we wait to see what happens, there is a high level of speculation about what the leader of the opposition will do,” Goldie said.
“We are ensuring that the leader of the opposition is well aware of what the deep concerns will be. We, and many others across the community… will do everything we can to prevent this kind of cut.
“We shouldn’t even be contemplating this kind of approach. We had thought that – with the recognition growing globally… that the biggest risk to having a good, stable economic environment is… inequality – this is not the kind of approach that we would see.
“However, here we are, with a government that is bringing to Parliament both bills to cut the level of income support for people on the lowest incomes, at the same time as providing tax cuts for people on higher incomes.”