The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has called on the Australian Government to craft a Budget policy package that address major national challenges – stagnant incomes, a weak economy, service failures and climate change – in its 2020-21 budget submission released yesterday.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said in a press release:

“We cannot accept the ‘new normal’. We’ve seen report after report of failings in our service systems, with older people being neglected in aged care and people with disability suffering abuse. People in paid work have long gone without pay rises and those looking for paid work are being trapped in poverty, without a real increase to Newstart in 25 years and with unemployment rising. In the wake of the devastating bushfires, so many have been left to pick up the pieces as the country begins on the long, hard road to recovery.

“The community is crying out for decisive leadership to confront these major national challenges that are severely impacting so many lives, and the solutions are clear. The Government must confront the reality of the climate crisis by urgently acting on the science. Too much is at stake. In this year’s budget, the Government needs to strengthen climate action, boost incomes, build low cost housing and fix service gaps in ways that will stimulate the economy to create jobs, including in regional, rural and fire-affected communities.

“Our Budget Submission makes the case for a well-targeted fiscal stimulus package including an immediate boost to Newstart, investment in social housing construction and energy efficiency. Tax cuts and investment incentives are much less effective in boosting the economy per dollar spent and do little to assist those on the lowest incomes.

“Together with business, regional, health and community groups, we have been calling for Newstart to be raised for over a decade and in that time the cost of essentials has increased dramatically. In light of steep increases in housing and other essentials, we have updated our call for Newstart to be increased to $95 per week. Raising the rate by $95 per week will get Newstart working by allowing people to cover the basics, instead of being forced to skip meals, sleep rough and miss medication, which makes finding paid work even harder. The benefits of increasing Newstart would be felt in the economy immediately, particularly in regional and rural areas, including those affected by fires.

“A series of national inquiries have exposed serious failings in our mental health, disability and aged care systems. To respond to these gaps, we propose a $2.3 billion per year boost to Home Care Packages and a $2 billion per year boost to community services more broadly, including homelessness, mental health and food relief services, which are struggling to keep up with demand, after years of funding cuts. A major boost in these essential services would also open up excellent job opportunities across the community.

“This Budget should take steps to strengthen revenue to ensure that, as our population ages, we can fund quality services we can all rely on, including aged care. We can save the budget billions a year by ending tax avoidance practices, such as sheltering tax in private trusts, reporting income through private companies and international business tax avoidance.

“In the aftermath of devastating bushfires, it is all the more clear that climate change widens and entrenches poverty. We must cut emissions, including by investing in energy efficiency for social housing to help people on low incomes cope with energy bills and extreme heat, while creating jobs. To fund ongoing disaster relief, resilience and a fair transition to a low-carbon economy, the government must cut fossil fuel subsidies saving the budget billions a year.”

ACOSS Budget Submission

Newstart Increase Briefing Note

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