Federal government urged to invest in Australia’s post-COVID recovery
10 February 2021 at 9:32 am
ACOSS has outlined its six steps for recovery and renewal
The policy vigour and community-minded approach shown by the Morrison government during Australia’s COVID-19 response must now be applied to the major challenges the nation still faces, the peak body for social services says.
The Australian Council of Social Service’s (ACOSS) 2021-22 budget submission said Australia was in a relatively strong COVID position now due to bold policy interventions from the government, such as the coronavirus supplement, JobKeeper, and housing-related protections.
But the submission warned that while these policies helped reduce poverty and homelessness at the height of the pandemic, these issues could spiral out of control if income supports and economic stimulus were withdrawn now.
ACOSS has outlined six steps to achieve a sustainable recovery of employment and incomes, tackle climate change, and guarantee essential community services.
CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said now was the time for the Morrison government to invest in Australia’s recovery so it can make the most of the good work it did protecting the community during its initial COVID response.
“We cannot stall now and risk the country slipping backwards,” Goldie said.
“By embracing investment ideas that solve our most pressing challenges we can create a much healthier Australia, generating good jobs and emerging a more caring and confident country.
“We need to tackle the big challenges – our public health response, record unemployment, the extreme weather of climate change, the social housing shortfall and under-resourcing in aged care and other essential services.”
ACOSS is calling for JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and other allowance payments to be permanently increased to pension levels and properly indexed.
It said “unwarranted barriers to income support” must be removed, including the cashless welfare cards, liquid assets waiting period, and automated unemployment payment suspensions.
The submission urged the government not to proceed with $17 billion a year tax cuts for high income people, arguing this would help strengthen the public revenue base to meet current and future needs.
It also put forward a three-year $7 billion plan that would help build 20,000 to 30,000 social housing properties and generate more than 15,000 jobs a year.
Goldie said this would address the “dire national shortage of social housing”.
“The social housing shortfall came into stark focus during the crisis, when governments rushed to find emergency, short-term housing for people sleeping rough – many of these people now have nowhere to go,” she said.
“We’re also calling for a national program to improve energy efficiency in low-income homes. It would cut energy bills for those struggling to pay them, lower emissions and create tens of thousands of jobs – a win, win, win on the social, environmental and jobs fronts.”
ACOSS noted the community sector’s critical role in disaster preparedness, but said organisations were themselves highly vulnerable to disasters.
It said the federal government should provide resources to help community sector organisations adapt to climate change, be better prepared for emergencies, and ensure continuity of care for vulnerable people.
Some of the policies suggested by ACOSS included creating an ongoing Disaster Management Grants Scheme for community groups and ensuring contracts for service delivery offer greater flexibility.
The submission said community service organisations comprised an essential component of the social infrastructure and must be supported “so they can continue to provide critical support to people and communities [to] better prepare, respond and recover from natural disasters”.
The full submission can be seen here.