Social Sector Says Slashing Energy Supplement is a ‘Human Rights Issue’
26 July 2017 at 11:37 am
Australia’s peak body for social services is calling on parliament to reject legislation that will cut the energy supplement saying that further cuts to people living on so little is a “human rights issue”.
ACOSS, along with other civil society groups, voiced their opposition to the proposed bill that went before a senate hearing in Melbourne on Wednesday.
ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said removing the energy supplement would cut the incomes of Australia’s most disadvantaged people.
“If this bill goes through,1.7 million people on the lowest incomes will be worse off, including those paying for accommodation, food, travel costs and day-to-day bills while living on just $38 a day,” Goldie said.
“Expecting people in Australia to survive on so little is a human rights issue.”
ACOSS called on the government to work on increasing people’s incomes to help the 3 million Australians living in poverty.
“We cannot fathom why government persists in trying to cut the incomes of people who have the least,” Goldie said.
“With almost 3 million people living in poverty, including over 730 000 children, the Australian government must focus on how to increase people’s incomes, not slash them.
“The government’s job is to work with us to end poverty in Australia, not make it worse.”
We reject the Government’s latest attempt to cut incomes of people living in poverty.
The energy supplement must stay. #senateinquiry
— ACOSS (@ACOSS) July 25, 2017
Anglicare also voiced “strong opposition” to the bill and said any further cuts to welfare payments were “unconscionable”.
“Australia already has some of the lowest income support payments in the world. Axing the Energy Supplement would cut them by up to $7 a week,”Anglicare Australia’s acting executive director Roland Manderson said.
“The senate inquiry looking at this already has plenty of evidence that people can’t afford these cuts. Anglicare Australia is just one of many groups that have overwhelmingly rejected them.
“Let’s abandon these cuts and work together to design a payment system that meets everybody’s needs.”
The government introduced the proposed measure to end the payment to new income support recipients in May.
Minister for Social Services Christian Porter said at the time the energy supplement was no longer necessary as the government had stripped Labor’s carbon tax.
“The Energy Supplement was introduced under Labor to compensate for the introduction of the Carbon Tax – a tax scrapped by the Coalition in 2014,” Porter said.
“It is simply not sustainable to continue to compensate people who have not yet even entered the welfare system for a tax that no longer exists.”
Porter said if passed the proposed measure would save $933 million over four years.
Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said the government’s argument that the supplement was no longer necessary was “rubbish”.
“The argument that the energy supplement is no longer necessary with the carbon price gone is rubbish. We have been told that because of how the clean energy supplement was introduced, removing it will leave people worse off than if it had never been introduced,” Siewert said.
“Removing the energy supplement is a cut to an income support payment that desperately needs lifting. For years it has been established that the Newstart payment is dismally low and hasn’t increased in real terms for a really long time.
“People accessing the social safety net can’t afford to lose any more money.”