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Welfare sector slams band-aid budget

30 March 2022 at 1:15 pm
Jonathan Alley
Welfare advocates say Tuesday’s budget falls far short of real solutions

Jonathan Alley | 30 March 2022 at 1:15 pm


Welfare sector slams band-aid budget
30 March 2022 at 1:15 pm

Welfare advocates say Tuesday’s budget falls far short of real solutions

The election year budget has seen a firmly mixed reaction from welfare advocates, who while cautiously welcoming certain individual measures, say the budget’s broad initiatives add up to little tangible change for those at disadvantage.

A chief criticism lies in using tax cuts to ease cost of living pressures, while the sector favours direct action to create more immediate help, for those in genuine need.

“Almost $3 billion goes to reducing the fuel excise, which offers little help at the bowser and would have been much better spent lifting income support and boosting social and affordable housing,” Australian Council of Social Services CEO Cassandra Goldie said.

“The $450 one-off tax offset is overshadowed by the $16 billion annual tax cuts baked into the budget, most of which go to men on the highest incomes.”

While welcoming a safety net threshold-reduction in the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme, and the expansion of the Paid Parental Leave scheme to 20 weeks for single parents – Goldie said the tack taken in the budget failed to meet Australia’s fundamental challenges. 

“This budget ignores the big challenges that this country faces… poverty, inequality and climate change. It doesn’t deliver a budget people can rely on,” she said.

Anglicare Australia concurred, saying the budget displayed a fundamental lack of national leadership at a time when Australians needed it most.

“Australians need real action, and real leadership,” Anglicare CEO Kasy Chambers said.

“That means raising Centrelink payments over the poverty line, investing in job programs, and taking action to make housing more affordable. One-off payments do not help people out of poverty, and they will do little to tackle rising costs.”

With unemployment at 4 per cent – a figure repeatedly cited by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg as being “the lowest since 1974” in Tuesday’s budget speech – a strong element of the government’s preferred strategy to help lift people out of poverty appears to lie in upscaling apprenticeships and rewarding participating employers.

There was $954 million allocated to a new Australian Apprenticeships Incentive to run over five years, with an extra $365.3 million sunk into wage subsidies to extend existing Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements. Overall apprentice-retention program commitments over the next five years comprise $1.3 billion of government investment.

However the 4 per cent unemployment figure does not reflect job seekers who have given up looking for work and are no longer claiming benefits, nor does it reflect the large numbers of under-employed people with a few hours of casual or inconsistent work over a fortnightly period whose modest income rules them out of unemployment payments. Australia’s under-employed cohort is typically in the 18 to 24 year old bracket and often includes young people at risk of homelessness.

Additionally there are some adjustments around digital access for job seekers (expanding eligibility for the Local Recovery Fund to include job seekers self‑managing through digital services), and funding of new work skills programs. The ReBoot initiative aims to support 5,000 young people at disadvantage with employability and pathway to employment program opportunities.

Our 2022 budget coverage is brought to you by Fifty Acres.

Jonathan Alley  |  @ProBonoNews

Jonathan Alley is opinion editor at Pro Bono Australia.

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