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Gutsy budget built around icons


This is a legacy budget. The further into history it recedes, the better it is going to look in terms of economic management.

From the perspective of community services agencies, it's a budget framed around three icons: a national disability insurance scheme, education reform, and welfare to work focused welfare spending.

The jewel in the crown has to be the Australian Government committing to ten years of funding for DisabilityCare, which once rolled out will make a significant difference in the daily lives of nearly half a million Australians who will be better able to participate in their community.

The budget maintains $3.7 billion for the Living Longer, Living Better aged care package.

It's a gutsy budget in a challenging economic environment and an election year. 

UnitingCare advocated for business tax loopholes to be closed, and this budget delivers on that, albeit in a relatively modest way, with savings of $4.1 billion over the forward estimates. I say relatively modest, but that's not the message around Parliament from business representatives. They are not happy.

Another $1.5 billion will be saved through limiting open ended personal income tax concessions related to education and medical expenses. 

Some modest steps were taken to rein in middle class welfare, with the baby bonus being scaled back from $5000 to $2000 for the first child and better targeted by being tied to Family Tax Benefit A. 

Given that monies saved through these measures are directed to DisabilityCare and education reform in the main, these initiatives are progressively redistributive.

However, the heralded superannuation reform will deliver only $720 million over the forward estimates which annually is less than one per cent, or four dollars in every thousand, of superannuation concession by 2016–17. 

For the first time in our nation's history, in the forward estimates super concessions will top $50 billion a year. $50 billion is fifty thousand million dollars. That's a lot of money, 80 per cent of which goes to the wealthiest 20 per cent of superannuants. 

It's hard to believe that if we sat down with tens of billions of dollars to allocate to social priorities we would choose to fund the retirement of very wealthy Australians. It's a very poor use of public money.

It is not surprising, but is very disappointing, to see no direct increase to unemployment benefits. While three measures totalling $300 million will assist unemployed people transition to work through lifting and indexing in the tax free threshold, extending the pensioner education supplement and enabling access to the pensioner concession card for longer, unemployed Australians will continue to struggle to make ends meet.

If budgets are about choices, as the Treasurer said when delivering the Budget, this year the budget challenges the free ride for the top end of town while investing in iconic disability and education reform.

Lin Hatfield DoddsLin Hatfield Dodds is National Director of UnitingCare Australia.

Topic tags: Lin Hatfield Dodds, Budget, UnitingCare, welfare, community services, DisabilityCare



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Existing comments

no matter what the budget says or leaves us as a message, the issue is who is paying for it. So when rudd threw $900 at everyone what was it for? When the government threw money at a BUILDING EDUCATION REVOLUTION and PINK BATTS what was it for. It was a rort. Catholic schools showed how you can save money and government schools cost more. THere is no money because BHP said they would not invest in Australia until a change of government. The government has thrown away so much money -waste- that no wonder there is no money in the budget. Think carefully about supporting this budget because whilst everyone supports a disability scheme there are still a lot of unanswered questions such as DOES MY CAR REGISTRATION FALL because i will no longer have to pay TAC do businesses have to pay workcover premiums do employers ansd contractors still have to have disability insurance In other words who is in and who is out and REMEMBER if you are over 65 YOU ARE OUT

phil | 16 May 2013  

Here we go again! There seems to be no end in the glorification of “poverty” and making anybody trying to work hard look bad. I believe as more taxes people pay as more benefit they should get. It is all about rewarding hard work and not rewarding poverty traps. We have charity organisations paying their executives over a a quarter of a Million a year and they call out for more help for the poor. Maybe if churches and so called charities start paying taxes, then we could help more of the "poor".

Beat Odermatt | 16 May 2013  

I had a whiff of things to come when viewing the PMs speech on the passage of the NDIS and noticed the absence of the vast majority of the opposition. I thought that this legislation was bipartisan in its support. It looks to me as if the opposition feared their presence at the PMs speech would have reflected some glory on her, rather than having the grace to see that the glory was largely there to be shared. It was a mean-spirited, muddle headed reaction. They failed to read the community momentum in favour of this legislation.

Michael Vaughan | 17 May 2013  

Why limit the disability insurance scheme to the disabled? Why not extend it's coverage to the entire population? To pay for it we simply borrow Trillions of dollars rather than billions snd simply pay it back plus interest from our penions.

Bill Barry | 20 May 2013  

It seems the struggle between the "Haves" and the "Nots" is to be perpetual. I passed through USA in the '60's, and saw some of the civil rights marches. One thing that surprised me was that many Irish, who had faced the same kind of discrimination and risen above it, had little sympathy with their struggle, saying that they should work through it, as the Irish had. Many Catholics, once battlers and unwanted among Conservative ranks, but now affluent,and having taken over the Liberal Party, are now turning their backs on the 'battlers' and seeking to ignore the needy and reward the rich. Such is life?

Robert Liddy | 21 May 2013  

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