The Good, the Bad and the Unfair – Sector Budget Reaction
Wednesday, 10th May 2017 at 12:23 pm
The not-for-profit sector has had a mixed reaction to the 2017 federal budget – praising some aspects while condemning the punitive measures that target welfare recipients and the unemployed.
UnitingCare Australia’s national director Claerwen Little said despite some constructive measures, such as the increase in the Medicare levy to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the 2017 federal budget needed to do more for the most vulnerable Australians.
“The full funding of the NDIS from 2020 will afford greater dignity and independence to Australians with permanent and significant disability,” Little said.
But she criticised the punitive measures targeting the unemployed and welfare recipients.
“The very worst elements of this budget impose harsh compliance measures on jobseekers for no apparent benefit to their employment prospects” she said.
“The language of three strikes and demerits in the government’s proposed welfare reform effectively make it a crime to be unemployed.”
She said the needs of Australia’s young people had been left out of the 2017 budget.
“Greater costs for higher education and a lack of support for our most vulnerable young people are a heavy burden for those who hold the future of our nation in their hands,” she said.
“We are concerned at the income management measures the government has committed to extending, along with the cashless debit card. The government has not explained how this will cost-effectively assist communities to gain the capacity to manage their income long term.”
The St Vincent de Paul Society said young people were among the biggest losers of the 2017 federal budget.
“There is nothing fair about slashing university funding while raising student fees and requiring graduates to pay back loans sooner,” St Vincent de Paul Society National Council CEO Dr John Falzon said.
“Young people need access to higher education. Not fee increases and funding cuts.”
He said at the same time, the budget delivered poor support for those locked out of the job market.
“There is only one job for every 10 people looking for work or more work,” Falzon said.
“One in three young people are unemployed or underemployed.
“We have a Newstart payment that has not seen an increase in real terms since 1994. And yet the government is attempting to make an art-form out of cruelty to young unemployed people.”
“We longed for a carefully considered vision. But we were served a buffet of tactics. We yearned for hope. But young people, along with older people have been pushed out, have been given yet another serve of deliberate humiliation.”
The Law Society of NSW welcomed the federal government’s commitment of $80 million to family law and family violence services.
“This will help repair a family law system on the verge of breaking,” Law Society of NSW president Pauline Wright said.
“This critically needed funding could help reduce the hardship for many parents and children who spend years and thousands of dollars struggling through mediation and court processes.”
Wright said the commitment of $10.7 million for family consultants to deal with family law cases and $3.4 million for six new domestic violence units could provide a much needed safety net for families who were “falling through the cracks”.
“Additional funds for support services including social workers and psychologists could assist family members in distress,” she said.
Wright said the federal government’s previously announced commitment of $55.7 million in funding to the community legal sector over the next three years “showed the government was listening to the sector”.
“The allocation of $39 million to Community Legal Centres and $16.7 million to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services provides a lifeline to disadvantaged and vulnerable people in society who might otherwise be turned away from help,” Wright said.
“However the legal assistance sector needs the certainty of a longer term commitment for funding. Only then can it promise people in need that they will never be turned away again.”
The Labor opposition said the government had also brought the marriage equality plebiscite “back from the dead”.
“Despite explicitly banking more than $100 million in savings for not proceeding with the marriage equality plebiscite in last year’s mid-year economic and fiscal update, $170 million in funding for the marriage equality plebiscite has reappeared in the 2017-18 budget as a contingency measure,” deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek said.
“The marriage equality plebiscite was always a terrible idea, which was met with strong opposition from the LGBTI community, the majority of Australians, and Australian Labor. It was comprehensively defeated in the Senate.
“Prime Minister Turnbull needs to explain why the government has made a screeching reversal on its funding allocation for a plebiscite.”