Community groups demand halt to harmful Budget measures
August 27, 2014 – ACOSS today led a large delegation of community sector representatives to Canberra to call on our elected representatives to reject harmful social security changes in this year’s Budget.
ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie was joined by around 50 representatives from community welfare agencies as well as people directly affected by Budget changes at a press conference in Parliament House.
Dr Goldie and the representatives spoke of the impact of proposals, including:
- removing income support for six months of the year for young people looking for work;
- the transfer of 22-24 year olds from the Newstart payment to the lower Youth Allowance;
- reducing indexation of pension payments;
- reducing assistance to low income families, including sole parent families, through changes to family payments.
Joint Community Sector Statement on Budget social security changes
ACOSS has released a statement signed by more than 100 community organisations from around the country expressing serious concerns about these unfair budget measures, and urged parliament to reject the proposals outright.
SIGN statement by emailing [email protected]
ACOSS leads community sector campaign against harsh Budget measures
A large number of people and community organisations are concerned about the measures in the 2014-15 Federal Budget and their effect on those experiencing poverty, disadvantage and inequality.
ACOSS has developed a range of resources to assist people and organisations to:
- understand key budget measures and their impacts
- ensure the voices of individuals and communities are heard by decision-makers.
Many of the proposed measures of this budget are special appropriations that require legislative change. The passage of these changes is not inevitable, but depends on support from the Opposition and other minority parties and independents in the Senate.
Controversial budget measures are likely to be referred to committee for Inquiry. A number of parliamentary bills have already been referred to committee, including the two omnibus social security bills, the fuel excise indexation bill and a number of health measures. You can keep up to date with current Senate Committee inquiries and opportunities to participate at:http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Current_Inquiries
It is a parliamentary convention not to hold a final vote on a bill which has been referred to a Senate Committee until that Committee has reported. In the case of the social security omnibus budget legislation which has been referred to committee, the reporting date is 4 September 2014.
Budget Social Security Bills Measures
Removing the income support safety net for many young job seekers
The Budget proposes measures that will force many young job seekers to live without any income for 6 months each year. This proposal could be catastrophic for some young people, and lead to homelessness, financial crisis, and going without food or medical care. It would also make it even harder for young people to find work.
Eroding the value of income support for people at risk of poverty
The Budget proposes to change indexation arrangements for a range of income support payments, including the age pension, disability support pension and parenting payment (single). This will mean that income support will no longer maintain pace with community living standards, and force greater numbers of people into poverty. ACOSS analysis shows that a person receiving a single pension will be $80 a week worse off in 10 years’ time.
See factsheet Pension Indexation and Income and Assets Tests for more information.
Reducing family tax benefits for low and moderate income earners
The Budget proposes major changes to family tax benefits (FTB). These payments assist families to pay for essential items relating to their children’s education, health and wellbeing, especially for low and moderate income earners, including single parents. While the proposal to reduce the threshold for eligibility for FTB from $150k to $100k will improve targeting, a number of the other measures will significantly increase hardship for low and moderate income households.The cuts will mean a substantial reduction in income for some families, potentially creating financial crisis and placing the health, educational participation and wellbeing of their children at risk. The changes to Family Tax Benefit Part B will further reduce income in sole parent families, who are already experiencing high levels of poverty.
See factsheet Changes to Family Tax Benefit for more information.
Changes to Pensions, including Age Pension
Proposed changes to eligibility requirements mean that the value of pensions will decrease over time and that people will have to wait longer to receive the the Age Pension. The age at which people can receive the Age Pension will be extended to 70 years by 2035.
See factsheets Age Pension Age for more information
Changes to the Disability Support Pension
People aged under 35 who currently receive the Disability Support Pension (DSP) and who were initially granted the Pension between 2008 and 2011 will have their eligibility for the Pension reviewed.
See factsheet Disability Support Pension for more information.
Increased penalties for people without paid work
Newstart Allowance recipients who leave a job or refuse work without good reason will no longer be able to have the resultant 8 weeks of non-payment waived on hardship grounds. Those who don’t meet their activity requirements will only be able to have the 8 week penalty waived once during each of their periods on Newstart. Eight weeks is too long to deny income support to people, and this measure means that people will face serious hardship if they incur a penalty.
See factsheet Tougher Penalties for the Unemployed for more information.
Other Budget Measures
Increases in user charges for essential health services, including GP payments, medicines and tests
The Budget proposes a compulsory co-payment for a range of health services available through Medicare, and increases the cost of medicines available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. These new costs may deter people, especially those on low incomes, from seeking appropriate treatment for ill-health, and some may leave health problems to deteriorate, requiring more intensive – and expensive – health services later.
See ACOSS Submission to Inquiry into the Health Insurance Amendment (Extended Medicare Safety Net) Bill 2014 theGrattan Institute’s submission on out of pocket GP costs and CHOICE’s analysis of the Budget health measures
Withdrawal of federal funding to essential social services
There have been significant cuts proposed in the Budget that will reduce access to services for vulnerable and low-income Australians. These include access to employment support, legal services, youth services, support for newly arrived migrants and funding for concessions to older Australians.
See ACOSS Budget Analysis for more information.
Silencing of advocacy organisations working to ensure that the voices of disadvantaged and marginalised groups are heard.
This Budget foreshadows de-funding of organisations that advocate for the welfare of disadvantaged Australians, such as the Alcohol and Drugs Council of Australia, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, Refugee Council of Australia and Australian Youth Affairs Council.
- Index of major social security measures in Federal Budget bills
- Seniors Health Cards and Seniors Supplement
- Disability Support Pension
- Ordinary Waiting Period
- Changes to Family Tax Benefit
- Pensioner Education Supplement
- Age Pension Age
- Six-Month Wait for Youth Payments
- Tougher Penalties for the Unemployed
- Youth Allowance for Unemployed Young People
- Pension Indexation and Income and Assets Tests
ACOSS Conference Resolution on the Budget
During the ACOSS Conference, over 300 participants voted on a resolution which called on the federal parliament to reject divisive and unfair budget proposals that will severely impact the most vulnerable people in our community. The resolution reads:
Participants of the 2014 ACOSS National Conference call on the Australian Parliament to ensure that Australia moves to become a fair and inclusive society, in which all people can participate economically, and be included in the community.
We call on the Australian Government to work with us in designing policy that is sustainable, inclusive and fair.
The Government and the Parliament should abandon the following divisive and unfair proposed budget measures that severely impact the most vulnerable people in our community:
- Removal of the income support safety net for many young job seekers;
- Measures that erode the value of income support for people at risk of poverty;
- Reductions in family tax benefits for low and moderate income earners;
- Increases in user charges for essential health services, including GP payments, medicines and tests;
- Withdrawal of federal funding to essential social services;
- Silencing of advocacy organisations working to ensure that the voices of disadvantaged and marginalised groups are heard.