‘Silent heroes’ of 2020 left on the sidelines by the budget
12 October 2020 at 6:02 pm
MP Andrew Leigh say the government “doesn’t seem to realise” the contribution that charities make, as Labor outlines its vision for a fairer society in its budget reply speech
The federal budget shows the government is not committed to reform in the interests of the charity sector, the shadow assistant minister for treasury and charities says.
Dr Andrew Leigh told Pro Bono News the government “didn’t seem to realise” that the charity sector employed over a million Australians and was playing a vital role in the pandemic.
“They [charities] are the silent heroes of 2020, but they have been left on the sidelines,” Leigh said.
“There is very little in the federal budget for charities. There is nothing to encourage donations, nothing to reduce the cost of fundraising, nothing to support the sector in adapting to new technologies which I know has been a big call for the sector. There is nothing to support volunteering.”
He pointed to the pressures that charities have been placed under, including the drop in donations and volunteers, combined with an increase in demand.
He said ideally all local MPs should be reaching out to their local community groups and taking them seriously.
“I don’t get the sense that that always happens,” he said.
On the question of how charities can better make sure they are included in the federal budget, Leigh said it was important to tell the story of how the charity sector helps Australians.
“So if we’re talking about family violence, recognising how critical community legal centers are; if we’re talking about closing the gap, recognising the work that say the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience plays; if we’re talking about job finding, recognising the roles charities play in making sure people have the skills and the connections to find work,” he said.
His comments come as Anthony Albanese has moved to position Labor as the champions of female workforce participation through a $6.2 billion plan to scrap the annual childcare subsidy cap.
In his first budget-in-reply speech as opposition leader, Albanese unveiled major policy announcements on energy, manufacturing and child care.
While there wasn’t a detailed social housing policy, Albanese also flagged that Labor would invest substantially in this area.
Leigh said Labor’s social housing announcement would have left a lasting legacy as well as providing short term jobs.
“It’s what I call a Keynesian double, where you are managing to stimulate the economy in the short term but making a lasting difference in the long term,” he said.
He said Labor’s budget reply also recognised that this has been a “pink recession”.
“And it can’t be responded to by a purely blue recovery plan,” Leigh said.
“There are a whole lot of caring sectors that require more investment, including particularly childcare. We recognise that is a context in which we can build a stronger sense of community, improve women’s workforce ties and also invest in a sector whose employees are 97 per cent female. So there is a real gendered aspect to this.”
He said he thought the government had missed a chance to rebuild the economy for the better.
“I think they have focused entirely on the short term. They are jumping from crisis to crisis and are not thinking through the opportunities to use fiscal stimulus to produce long-term dividends,” Leigh said.
Despite the criticism of the federal budget, Labor has indicated it will back the tax cuts and business incentives.
But Leigh denied this was an endorsement of Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison’s plan.
“The government has emphasised the importance of getting money out the door speedily, and we recognise the need to provide that quick support,” he said.
“We had called for tax supports for lower and middle income earners, we wouldn’t have designed these measures the way they are, but we don’t want to stand in the way of it.”