Budget fails Australia’s most vulnerable

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The final federal budget before what is anticipated to be a closely contested federal election includes a range of tax cuts for many Australian workers and some funding for education and early childhood services but fails to address the ever-growing inequality across the country.

Jesuit Social Services staff member works with a client of one of the organisation's settlement programs.Simply put, it is those in the greatest need of support who have yet again been left behind.

The federal government has ignored calls from a chorus of people, including many businesses, to raise the rate of the Newstart allowance. Newstart has not increased in real terms for almost 25 years and there has been increasing community awareness about the significant challenges faced by a recipient trying to survive on just $278 a week.

ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie told ABC that raising Newstart should have been the priority of the budget if the government was serious about helping low-income Australians.

Organisations including ACOSS, Refugee Council of Australia and the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia have also highlighted the proposed budget measure of forcing skilled migrants to wait four years for welfare payments.

On Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters: 'They come as skilled migrants and of course they come here on the basis they are going to be employed. It's only right they should be working here until they become entitled to that benefit (welfare).'

This proposal is in stark contrast to all the evidence about the best way to create and promote social cohesion — and will only serve to generate further hardship among already marginalised communities.

 

"The government clearly has its eyes on trying to remain in power next year. It is deeply disappointing that this is at the expense of some of the most marginalised members of the community."

 

Jesuit Social Services delivers the African Australian Inclusion Program in partnership with NAB, to provide paid work opportunities to skilled African Australians who face barriers to corporate employment in Australia.

Through this initiative the organisation has seen first-hand some of the challenges skilled people can face, including applying for hundreds of jobs and not receiving a single interview.

Many of these people have much to offer Australia but find it extremely difficult to get a foot in the door. They should be supported and nurtured, not have their experiences compounded by making it harder for them to receive government assistance.

Six months after the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory handed down its landmark final report and recommendations, the federal government has failed to come to the party by matching the territory government's funding commitments.

The territory government has accepted the intent of all 227 recommendations contained in the report, which aim to overhaul the territory's troubled child protection and youth justice systems.

This is an opportunity for the Northern Territory to lead the nation in evidence-based reform, including a commitment to steer young people away from the justice system wherever possible and a youth detention model based on best practice.

But while the territory government last month pledged $229 million towards reforming the system, the federal budget does not contain funds towards implementing the royal commission's recommendations.

This is particularly disappointing as the federal government instigated the royal commission following revelations about the abuse and mistreatment of young people in Darwin's Don Dale detention facility, but is now expecting the territory to implement the recommendations by themselves.

Housing is the other big loser in this year's budget. There is no extra funding for social housing or homelessness services despite the number of people needing assistance from homelessness services increasing year on year.

Homelessness Australia, the national peak body for homelessness, labeled the budget as 'short-sighted and heartless', and accompanying analysis by the peak body found that there has been a 16 per cent decline in federal spending on housing and homelessness over the five years to 2018-19.

'We need the government to bolster the services that do the heavy lifting, and to build more housing that people on the lowest incomes can afford; it's as simple, and as difficult, as that,' says Homelessness Australia Chair Jenny Smith.

Through more than 40 years of working with people involved with the criminal justice system, we at Jesuit Social Services know that many people who experience contact with the system have experienced homelessness or insecure living arrangements.

Increasing the supply of social housing to ensure that vulnerable people, including those exiting the prison system, have access to a safe place to sleep and a roof over the heads is vital in helping people to turn their lives around and prevent further offending.

With this budget, the federal government clearly has its eyes on trying to remain in power next year. It is deeply disappointing that this is at the expense of some of the most marginalised members of the community.

 

 

Julie EdwardsJulie Edwards is the CEO of Jesuit Social Services.

Main image: Jesuit Social Services staff member works with a client of one of the organisation's settlement programs.

Topic tags: Julie Edwards, Budget 2018, welfare

 

 

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Existing comments

Eliminating debt which this government is doing through its budgeting must eventually make more available to the most vulnerable. Its impossible to give people what they want when they want it if you don't have the money to do it! And we are now thankfully clawing back the massive debt a certain political party incurred on behalf of all of us, including the vulnerable and disadvantaged. It is difficult to see how a budget which doesn't appear to be throwing money away can possibly be failing our most vulnerable.
john frawley | 10 May 2018


"Homelessness Australia, the national peak body for homelessness, labeled the budget as 'short-sighted and heartless', and accompanying analysis by the peak body found that there has been a 16 per cent decline in federal spending on housing and homelessness over the five years to 2018-19." Very true! And what a contrast to New Zealand where the Prime Minister has allocated millions of dollars to house all the homeless people there before winter sets in this year. The wealth divide in Australi will be even greater with this heartless budget!
Grant Allen | 10 May 2018


This articles intro states "tax cuts for many Australian workers." Nowhere in the article is this shown. Cuts are to services. More fake news.
Paul | 11 May 2018


Thank you very much Julie for continuing to speak up for the vulnerable, disadvantaged and marginalised in our society. You're absolutely right to be extremely disappointed with the lack of support this budget provides for the homeless, social housing, Newstart recipients, child protection and youth justice. It's all very disheartening for those of us who are committed to overcoming inequality in Australia. But worse than that it leaves thousands of Australians without a livable weekly income and therefore continually struggling to make ends meet. I'm very thankful for charities who give much needed assistance to those in need. But it's the role of good government to make sure no one is left to rely on this extra support.
robert van zetten | 11 May 2018


Thanks Julie for your article. I don't think that people in power understand the idea that "there but for the grace of God go I"! Debt can be managed differently if we all understand the origins of words like ... "economy" ('Oikonomia' meaning - the running of a household) and "enough" (to the required degree or extent)! The current neo-liberal policy agenda is unsustainable because its debt reduction agenda just piles up problems that are an intrinsic part of our common human condition. This all leads to more rage, more weaponry, more "security" solutions, more fear, more despair ... "clawing back" is a good metaphor for the jungle behaviours this approach evokes and encourages. As a mother who knows serious adversity, I'd trust any person who knows what it takes to put a roof over the head and food on the table for children. Tax cuts do not do this if it's given to well-resourced people - research demonstrates this time and time again. More strength to your arm Julie in the important work you do.
Mary Tehan | 11 May 2018


I think your last sentence summarises the budget clearly. This budget reduces support for those with little power in the community. The government believes its own rhetoric that a strong economy is founded on more power and wealth being held by a small elite. Owning a house has become a means to wealth, not a place to live. Overseas aid is seen as "soft power", not a gift. Regulatory bodies are perceived as red tape, not as a legal protection. This budget is misguided in its vision of what Australian people need today and tomorrow.
Bill Dunne | 11 May 2018


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