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2019/20 Federal Budget again ignores the needs of vulnerable Australians

This week’s Federal Budget represents yet another missed opportunity to work towards the compassionate Australia we all deserve, by ignoring the needs of vulnerable Australians, writes Jesuit Social Services’ Media Relations Manager KATHRYN KERNOHAN.

With the handing down of the 2019/20 Federal Budget this week, the Federal Government is again ignoring the needs of vulnerable Australians.

The headline announcement in Tuesday’s Budget was a further $158 billion in tax cuts, predominately benefiting higher income earners.

For example, people on incomes of $200,000 will get more than $224 a week in tax savings and, as reported by the Australian Financial Review, will receive more than $11,600 in annual tax savings by 2024.

Sadly, tax cuts like these do little to improve outcomes and opportunities for people on the lowest incomes including those on income support payments.

The day after the Budget, and following backlash from the community services sector, the Federal Government confirmed that Newstart recipients will be entitled to a one-off ‘energy assistance’ payment (of $75 for singles or $125 for couples) after they were excluded on Budget night.

This is just a small one-off payment that will have no impact on the fact that more than one in eight people in Australia (13.2 per cent) are living below the poverty line (according to an October 2018 report by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) in partnership with the University of New South Wales).

The same report also found that those experiencing poverty at the highest rates are those people relying on social security payments such as Newstart and Youth Allowance.

The rate of Newstart has not been increased in real terms since 1994 – and this year’s Federal Budget again fails to address this. ACOSS chief Cassandra Goldie described the inaction as “a travesty.”

In our Federal Election platform A more compassionate Australia, we call on the incoming Federal Government to raise the single rate of Newstart, Youth Allowance and related payments by a minimum of $75 per week and to establish an independent social security commission to guide Parliament on future changes to income support rates and monitor indexation settings.

If we want to build a country where everybody has the opportunity to reach their full potential, our politicians must show true leadership and introduce reforms that help lift people out of poverty.

The Federal Government also announced it will close the Christmas Island detention centre before July 1 despite having committed to re-opening it earlier this year following the passing of the ‘medivac’ bill. This exercise has come at a cost of $185 million.

We believe that the Christmas Island facility should never have been re-opened and that people who seek asylum should be able to live in the Australian community with access to work rights, basic services and financial support if required.

In our Federal Election platform, we call for an end to offshore detention and the abolition of temporary protection visas.

Some aspects of this year’s Budget should be commended, such as the funding pledge to implement a Royal Commission into the violence and abuse of people with disability, and $460 million allocated to youth mental health prevention services.

Ultimately though, the Budget is yet another missed opportunity to work towards the compassionate Australia we all deserve.

In the lead up to a Federal Election, we urge our political leaders to commit to policies, practices and investments to give everybody the opportunity to reach their potential and to ensure people on the margins of society are no longer overlooked.