The 2018 National Conference of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), ‘Rise to the Challenge’ took place in Sydney on 29-30 October.

The program focused on the challenges currently confronting community services sector organisations, with lessons from the UK, USA and Australia. The National Conference seeks to provide ‘a deep dive into the latest research and developments in social, economic and environmental policy with a focus on poverty and inequality in Australia’, ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie stated. Among the topics were:

  • Confronting welfare conditionality
  • Migration, race and racism
  • Funding our future
  • Automating decisions and inequality
  • Persuading decision makers
  • Rising to the challenge of data
  • Raising the Rate campaign
  • Accessing and affording energy
  • Advocacy and democracy – silencing dissent
  • Co-designing services and programs
  • Addressing poverty and inequality, and
  • Challenging the front-lines of bold advocacy.

Government priorities

For his keynote speech, the Minister for Families and Social Services Paul Fletcher outlined the three priorities for the Australian Government in addressing poverty and inequality:

  • To have a clear understanding of the scope of the problem.
  • To build a strong economy – to maximise employment and maximise the capacity to fund support for vulnerable Australians.
  • Working to make the social services system more effective – so we target our spending better and get better outcomes for what we spend.

The Minister maintained that claims about rising inequality in Australia are ‘wrong’ and ‘factually inaccurate’, responding to the recent ACOSS ‘Poverty in Australia’ report which found that more than three million Australians were living in poverty; referring to data from the 2018 HILDA survey and the Productivity Commission’s stocktake paper on rising inequality.

Australia’s fiscal position

In the opening remarks for the Plenary Session: ‘Funding our future – where will it come from?’, Parliamentary Budget Officer Jenny Wilkinson focused on the independent role of the PBO in analysing fiscal sustainability issues, providing transparency and elevating thinking about budgetary issues, addressing three main areas.

  • Australia’s position from a budgetary perspective: The budget deficit has been wound back, at just $10 billion or 0.6% of GDP in 2017-18; projected to move into surplus, with net debt falling back below 5% of GPD.
  • Fiscal risks identified by the PBO: That economic growth will not be sustained at the projected rate; a slow recovery of growth in wages, less revenue from consumption taxes or increased government spending above current projections.
  • Emerging sources of pressure that Governments will need to grapple with over the next several decades: Ageing of the population, increasing consumer expectations on health care spending, and technological change.

The report, Outside systems control my life: The experience of single mothers on Welfare to Work, was also launched by Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand at the conference.

(Source: Conference webpage | Paul Fletcher MP | Parliamentary Budget Office)


From the blog: Topics – Poverty | Topics – Social Security

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