Calls for Parliament to Stand Firm and Oppose Zombie Cuts
8 February 2017 at 5:12 pm
The not-for-profit sector has called on the Federal Parliament to “stand firm” against cuts to the incomes of some of Australia’s poorest people, as proposed childcare reforms and welfare cuts dominated a heated question time.
ACOSS urged the Federal Parliament on Wednesday to oppose measures in the new Government Omnibus Bill that could see the incomes of some of the poorest people cut to fund child care reforms.
It comes as government released details of a compromise on planned cuts to family tax benefits tied to the Coalition’s signature childcare package.
As part of the bill being presented to Parliament, plans to abolish family tax benefit supplements worth up to $726 a year per child are being pushed ahead, offset against an increase in fortnightly payments for those on Family Tax Benefit Part A by up to a $20 a fortnight per child.
The savings from social security payments are worth around $5.5 billion over four years while the childcare changes will cost $1.3 billion.
According to the prime minister, the legislation will make the Australian child care system “more affordable, flexible and accessible for Australian families, while implementing the necessary budget savings to responsibly fund the reforms”.
However ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said it was the latest attempt by the government to “push through harsh cuts that will rip $7 billion from the social security budget”.
“It includes previously rejected ‘zombie’ measures, such as the five-week wait for unemployment payments, further cuts to family payments, and abolition of the energy supplement, which will slash the incomes of two million future recipients of income support,” Goldie said.
“The so-called concessions the government has made will be wiped out by other changes in the bill, leaving many low-income people worse off.
“Of course we all want greater support for families to get better quality childcare but it cannot be funded on the backs of some of the most disadvantaged people in our country.
“This is not the way to build a strong community – caring for each other through all stages of our lives has served our nation well. This new bill risks weakening our social fabric.”
Goldie said the increase to the Family Tax Benefit Part A for families with children by $10 a week did not “make up for cuts to the supplements”.
“A sole parent with two children aged 13 and 16 will still lose between $14 and $20 per week, or around $1,000 a year,” she said.
“Although this is less of a hit than under the previous proposal, it will still severely impact single parents, most of whom are struggling to keep a roof over their heads and feed their children as well as provide for them in the new school year.”
ACOSS also flagged concerns over plans to make young job seekers wait five weeks for Newstart and the abolishment of the energy supplement.
“We are concerned the new bill also includes unfair measures previously and repeatedly rejected by Federal Parliament and the broader community, such as making young people who become unemployed wait five weeks to receive income support,” Goldie said.
“This measure will not create jobs and merely punishes people who lose one.
“Abolishing the energy supplement will cut between $4 and $7 a week from people on the lowest incomes, including pensioners, students, families, and people locked out of paid work.
“We have been consistent in our opposition to any watering down of paid parental leave and oppose any weakening of the current system, which currently ranks second to last in the OECD.
“This zombie bill would only serve to increase poverty and inequality in Australia and Parliament must reject it.”.
The calls were echoed by St Vincent de Paul Society which urged the federal government to “reconsider its goal” of reducing company tax rates and cuts to family payments.
St Vincent de Paul Society Council CEO, Dr John Falzon, called on the government to embrace a “fairer, more equitable and sustainable budget strategy”.
“Despite more than two decades of uninterrupted economic growth, inequality in Australia is growing and people are being forced to turn to charity as a default mode of delivering social security,” Falzon said.
“It is unconscionable that the government would take from those who have little in order to give to those who have much.”
Falzon said the government “must halt the relentless attacks on people on low incomes and abandon its unfair budget strategy”.
“Families on low incomes, the unemployed, single parents, students, people with a disability and aged pensioners should not be treated as easy targets,” he said.
“We cannot afford company tax cuts and generous tax concessions to the wealthy, when at the same time the government claims to lack the revenue it needs to fund basic family payments, income support and essential services like schools, health care and community legal services.”
It comes as question time ended on Wednesday with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten exchanging insults on the floor of Parliament.
Shorten reportedly accused Turnbull of attacking families and of being tough on pensioners and soft on banks.
“This prime minister is seriously the most out-of-touch personality to ever hold this great office of prime minister,” Shorten said.
“Tough on pensioners and soft on banks, tax cuts for millionaires and payment cuts for Australian families.
“This is another version of the Liberal-National version of robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
In response Turnbull labelled Shorten a “simpering sycophant” and claimed he yearned for a harbourside mansion.
“He has shifted and he will say whatever suits his purpose from day to day,” Turnbull said.
“No consistency, no integrity. This sycophant, blowing hard in the house of representatives, sucking hard in the living rooms of Melbourne. What a hypocrite.”