Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Joe Hockey's prize orchid

  • 17 December 2014

In his Mid Year Financial Economic Outlook statements this week, Treasurer Joe Hockey construed 'The Economy' as some rare prized orchid, requiring careful nurturing, while the patient gardener waits for just that one moment in a lifetime when the flower blooms. 

The trouble with treating The Economy like a prized bloom is that we fail to recognise that the it exists to serve people. The health of our economy should be measured by the degree to which it lifts up those people who are vulnerable, frail and in need of support. A healthy economy is one in which opportunities are created for people to exercise greater degrees of self-determination, and where people have access to support to enable them to seize the opportunities available. 

Listening to Mr Hockey and so many in political leadership speak of The Economy, one could be forgiven for thinking that if only the architecture and financial settings were right then all of society's ills will fade away. Sadly the reality is more stark. While Mr Hockey and others tinker with The Economy - a little water here, a little fertiliser there - people living in the community are struggling to live lives of simple dignity.

Many non government social services agencies are embedded in the community, lending support to individuals and families day in and day out. Demand for services and support at Christmas will peak as families struggle to find something to celebrate, let alone finding something to celebrate with.

The availability of social support services is not keeping up with the demand. In a recent survey undertaken by the Australian Council of Social Services of 1000 community service workers, 43% of these services reported that they are simply unable to meet the needs of people coming to them for help. The largest service gaps exist in areas of the greatest need: among services working most closely with those on the lowest incomes and with the highest levels of need in their communities.

The May Federal Budget delivered a major blow to expenditure on welfare as well as changes to income support. This double whammy of reducing levels of support and reducing the support available has directly affected the most vulnerable people in our community. On the surface it appears that the most vulnerable were easy targets for the budget cuts recommended by the Commission of Audit. Revenue raising options were not given the same attention as reducing expenditure