We, community sector organisations and leaders from around the country, have come together to express our deep concern about changes to social security payments currently being considered by the Federal Parliament.
We support a robust social safety net to protect people from poverty in the event that they are unable to support themselves due to unemployment, caring responsibilities, disability, incapacity or other unforeseen circumstances.
We recognise that most of us will rely on this safety net at some point in our lives, and reject the division between those who ‘lift’ and those who ‘lean’. We all lift and lean at different points of our lives, sometimes simultaneously.
We understand the long term budget challenge the nation faces, with revenue declining and the needs of an ageing population increasing. For this reason, we support responsible reform to our tax and transfer systems to ensure we can maintain a robust system of supports and services into the future, for all of those who need them.
We are ready to partner with government in this reform process which we believe must be approached with care, equity and fairness and in dialogue with the community.
We oppose the unnecessary and harsh proposals in the Federal Budget, including the proposal to limit access to income support for young people to just 6 months a year. This represents a fundamental departure from the principle of basic support for all, in return for reasonable efforts to look for work. We fear that the policy will only serve to swell the numbers of those knocking on our doors seeking shelter, food, emergency relief and other support.
We believe that changes to pension indexation and family payments will erode the value of the payments over time and cause those relying on this support to fall behind community living standards. The proposed increase in the pension age will leave many older people languishing on the $36 a day Newstart Payment for longer, increasing poverty among older members of our community.
We believe that children should be protected from poverty and that assistance to low income families with children should be increased. We know that the majority of children living in poverty in Australia are in sole parent families, already hit hard by a succession of cuts to payments. Proposed changes to Family Tax Benefit Part B will leave sole parents and their children in an even more precarious position and lead to an increase in child poverty.
We do not accept that these measures are necessary to achieve budget sustainability when fairer alternatives exist.
To this end, we ask our elected representatives to reject the following budget measures:
- The removal of income support for six months of the year for young people looking for work (see factsheet here)
- The transfer of 22-24 year olds from the Newstart payment to the lower Youth Allowance (see factsheet here)
- The indexation of pensions to CPI rather than wages including the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment, Parenting Payment Single and Veterans Pensions (see factsheet here)
- Changes to family payments which will reduce support to low income families, including sole parent families (see factsheet here)
- Increasing the age pension age from 67-70 years, in the absence of any increase to Newstart (see factsheet here)
We support sensible reform which appropriately targets assistance to those who most need it, including the following budget social security measures:
- Abolishing the Seniors Supplement and freezing the Age Pension asset test cut off, which will affect seniors with more than a million dollars in assets apart from the family home;
- Lowering income eligibility for Family Tax Benefit Part B from $150,000 to $100,000 which will affect those on higher incomes; and
- Including untaxed superannuation income in the income test for the Seniors Health Card, as it is for the Age Pension. This will only impact on those on higher incomes.
We hope that our elected leaders will choose a path which seeks to build the capacity and skills of those who are locked out of work, assist them to find work, and ensure all have adequate income to live with dignity.
Our Parliament has a choice between harmful and helpful action. We urge all elected members of parliament to reject current proposals which will reduce support to low income and disadvantaged members of our community, including young people, sole parents, aged pensioners, people with a disability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
We invite them to instead partner with the community sector and other key sectors, including business and unions, so that together we can develop the fairest way forward. In this way we will build much needed community support for necessary reform to increase our revenue base and target government expenditure where it is needed to put our budget on a sustainable path for the future.