Civil Society Calls for a People Centred Budget
8 May 2017 at 5:17 pm
More than 75 civil society organisations have joined forces to advocate for a people-centred budget that serves the needs of ordinary Australians.
Representing an estimated five million Australians who use their services, more than 100 senior executives from the social sector gathered at Old Parliament House in Canberra on the eve of the federal government’s 2017 budget.
The key message from the event, called the People’s Budget, was that “budget decisions should show what we value, how we prioritise and what goals we have for our country.”
ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie told Pro Bono News that a budget focused on economic prosperity was not enough to ensure the needs of ordinary Australians were met.
“The argument has been going around for too long that if we achieve economic growth that in and of itself will ensure that everybody can enjoy an adequate standard of living. But we know that, after 20 years of good economic growth, inequality is as high as it had been in the 1950s and over three million Australians are living below the poverty line,” Goldie said.
Goldie said tax-cuts were not enough to see a rise in the living standards of Australians.
“This is not what the experts have found, in fact the research from the IMF [shows] that the best thing for good inclusive growth is to focus on lifting up the living standards of people who are struggling to meet everyday needs,” she said.
“What that means is we should be ensuring our social security system is decent, the role of unions in society is strong enough to be negotiating fair wages and come to grips with housing affordability.”
ACOSS was one of the People’s Budget organisers and Goldie said a key aim of the day was to ensure that the voices of everyday Australians were heard and their concerns voiced.
“I think there has been a strong sense that the government has lost touch with the reality of people’s lives and the fact is if you are lucky enough to have a job, even then 50 per cent of us are earning less than $55,000 – that is middle Australia,” she said.
Goldie said there was a general consensus that what the social sector didn’t want to see was a repeat of the 2014 budget.
“What we want to see in this budget is a real effort to lift the living standards,” Goldie said.
Community Council for Australia chief executive officer David Crosbie said Australia was not undergoing a crisis of economics rather a crisis of values.
“What we have seen is a loss of solidarity and a loss of compassion in our politics. Today’s event was an opportunity to unite and reassert our values,” Crosbie told Pro Bono News.
Crosbie said the gathering illustrated the importance of community, collaboration and a fair-go.
“One of the things that was communicated quite strongly was that civil society wanted greater opportunities to have their say on the budget,” he said.
“It is a little like getting a Christmas present without anyone asking you what you want in the lead up.”
Australian Council for International Development chief executive officer Marc Purcell said: “Instead of focusing on the top end of town, today showed that another type of budget is possible – one for the many, not the few.
“People across Australia are feeling the vast discrepancies of wealth and opportunity here-at-home and seeing it overseas. They want a fairer society and a more just world.”