Omnibus Mark 2 is unfair: ACOSS statement

ACOSS is appalled the Turnbull government rammed through social security cuts late last night that will have the biggest impact on people on low incomes, including families.

Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS, says our children and their parents will be sorely affected by the government’s Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill, a watered-down version of the previous Omnibus Bill that still attacks Australia’s hardest hit families.

“The Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill is unfair and should not have been passed. Overnight the lives of people in over 1.5 million households have been altered for the worse. These cuts are specifically aimed at hitting people on low-incomes.”

Read full statement here

RoboDebt must go: Community sector calls for end of Centrelink’s auto debt recovery program and the bullying of victims

A consortium of leading organisations from Australia’s community sector is calling on the government to immediately pull the plug on Centrelink’s RoboDebt, cease the intimidation and bullying of Centrelink clients and their families caught up in the automated debt recovery debacle, and provide a commitment that people’s protected information will not be publicly released.

Spokesperson for the group Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS, says the Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge must respond to people’s very real concerns about privacy, particularly with the opening of the Senate inquiry into Centrelink and the flawed RoboDebt scheme.

Read full media release and view list of organisations 

Read ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie’s opening statement to the Centrelink Inquiry

We can reduce poverty, inequality and the budget deficit: ACOSS Budget Submission 2017

ACOSS has called on the Turnbull Government to throw out harsh proposals that have repeatedly failed to pass Parliament and adopt budget policies that are fair and sustainable.

“After two years of chasing the ill-conceived 2014 Budget cuts, it’s time the Government recast its Budget strategy and moved on from the one-sided focus on spending cuts, particularly in social security,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

Read more here

ACOSS urges Parliament to reject latest attempt to cut incomes of poorest in new Omnibus Bill

ACOSS today urged the Federal Parliament to stand firm against measures in the new Government Omnibus Bill that will cut the incomes of some of the poorest people, including families, to fund child care reforms.

“This is the latest attempt by the Government to push through harsh cuts that will rip $7 billion from the social security budget.

It includes previously rejected ‘zombie’ measures, such as the five-week wait for unemployment payments, further cuts to family payments, and abolition of the energy supplement, which will slash the incomes of two million future recipients of income support,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

Read more here

Statement on Centrelink Auto-Debt Recovery Program: Govt must abandon program to prevent further harm

19 January 2017:  In a statement today, ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said: “This error-riddled Auto-Debt Recovery Program must be stopped without further delay. The tweaks announced by the Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge do not address the fundamental problems and serious concerns expressed by us and a broad range of stakeholders.

“ACOSS met with Minister Tudge yesterday and again urged him to immediately halt Centrelink’s automated debt recovery program, which is operating as an aggressive abuse of government power, causing extensive stress, anxiety and harm amongst thousands of people caught up in the process. We also repeated our call for the Minister to convene a roundtable of key stakeholders and experts as soon as possible to design a humane and fair approach to debt recovery.

Read more here

Information on Centrelink’s automated debt recovery program

ACOSS has raised our deep concerns in the media and with Government about Centrelink’s new automated debt collection system in which 20,000 people a week are sent letters asking them to confirm details of wages they received up to six years ago. ACOSS is calling for the immediate suspension of the program and for it to be independently reviewed.

We support the purpose of ensuring that people receive the right payments but the process is needlessly causing anxiety among people who have done the right thing and reported their earnings. Overpayments are being raised and people are being asked to repay ‘debt’ without the proper checks to make sure that money is actually owed.

The income support system is very complex and it is hard for people to recall how and when they were paid by employers years ago. We advise people who are asked to provide information to Centrelink on-line about their past income to take care to check your income details first before completing this form, as your response may determine whether or not a debt is raised.

Read more here

Pension changes

From 1 January 2017, the asset test for the pensions has been tightened, meaning that some part-pensioners with assets of more than $291,000 (single homeowner) or $453,500 (couple homeowner) will lose some of their part pension. Non-homeowners with assets above $539,500 (single) and $702,000 (couple) will lose some of their part pension.

The pension will no longer be paid to people with single people with assets of $542,500 (homeowner) and $742,500 (non-homeowner) and couples with assets of $816,000 (homeowner) and $1,016,000 (non-homeowner).

Read more here

Centrelink debt fiasco must end immediately

11 January 2017: ACOSS today called on the Australian Government to immediately suspend the automated Centrelink debt recovery program that is treating current and past Centrelink recipients like second-class citizens. ACOSS also called for the program to be independently reviewed.

Acting ACOSS CEO Peter Davidson said: “Centrelink has demonstrably failed in its duty of care to ensure accurate information is provided to recipients of income support and this failure is causing undue stress, anxiety and harm to some of our most vulnerable people.”

Read the media release here

MYEFO must end ‘zombie’ budget strategy which rips $7B from the poorest

ACOSS has urged the Federal Government to halt relentless attacks on people on low incomes, and use next week’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) to chart a fair and realistic Budget reform path and abandon $7 billion of harsh ‘zombie’ social security cuts that have already been rejected by Parliament.

“Low-income families, people struggling to find a job, and anyone who relies on social security payments to survive, need certainty in the Budget as much as business and the ratings agencies do. It is unacceptable for Government to continue its attacks on low income people, holding over their heads the threat of large cuts to their incomes, as it has since May 2014,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

Read the media release here

KPMG repeats its call for an increase to Newstart

Dr Cassandra Goldie has welcomed KPMG’s repeated call for an increase to the $38-per-day Newstart Allowance by $50 per week in its latest Reform Agenda for Australia.

“KPMG has described the paucity of Newstart as the largest hole in our social safety-net and has listed an increase to the payment in its top two priorities for reform”, said Dr Goldie.

“KPMG is not alone. The Business Council of Australia and the OECD have expressed concern that the low rate of payment is acting as a barrier to work and risks entrenching people in poverty.

Read the media release here

Child poverty on the rise

ACOSS today released a new report showing that 731,300 children or 17.4% of all children in Australia are living in poverty, an increase of 2 percentage points over the past 10 years (from 2004-2014).

The report finds that nearly three million people were living in poverty in Australia in 2014, or 13.3% of the general population.

“The overall picture from the last decade is one of persistent and entrenched poverty across the community with an increase in child poverty.  It is a national shame that after 25 years of economic growth, we have not done better at changing this trajectory and ensuring our most precious national resource, our children, are given the best possible start in life,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

Read the full media release | Read the report

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