Now is not the time to resume the old ‘normal’ service – we need a new approach and fast
8 February 2022 at 7:00 am
Reports that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg considers the economic situation in Australia is anywhere near “normal” and that we can leave the next stage of Australia’s future to the private sector are deeply concerning, writes ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.
Australia faces major challenges in the months, and next years ahead. We are far from finished with this pandemic, and as health experts continue to warn, we need to prepare for the next wave. There are still 1.1 million people languishing on the $45 a day unemployment payment.
The government should rule out austerity budgets after the election, which would deny people the services and safety nets they need and directly undermine the prime minister’s commitment to reduce unemployment. The government has already seriously weakened the budget with irresponsible and unfair tax cuts, with Stage Three of the package mostly going to people on higher incomes and mostly men. We were already the sixth lowest when it comes to social expenditures in the OECD.
The reality is that the people who have been and continue to be hardest hit by COVID-19 are those on the lowest incomes and they remain at greatest risk of ongoing disadvantage and severe hardship.
There are still many people in the community who have not yet had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated, let alone receive a booster shot, which is playing a significant role in the ongoing crisis in both our aged and disability care sectors. We need to be investing at least $10 billion more in aged care alone.
Tax deductions for COVID tests give the greatest assistance to those who need it less, those on higher incomes who can purchase unlimited supplies at top dollar and won’t help those who need help now the most. For many the decision to buy a RAT means a missed meal or a bill that can’t be paid on time – those are real time decisions which cannot be put off. Even when they finally get the deduction, those with the lowest incomes get the least:
- A worker on average earnings would get 33 cents back per dollar spent.
- A part time worker on $20,000 would get back just 19 cents per dollar.
- A worker on $15,000 would get nothing.
It’s vital that we have a system of robust, predictable income supports because many people are still losing their jobs or being forced to accept reduced hours to hold onto the job they’ve got and they don’t know whether they’ll be able to put food on the table to keep themselves and their families housed. Those affected have a right to expect the government to stand with them, not to be left guessing whether it will support them if they lose their job in the next wave of COVID.