ACOSS welcomes second Turnbull Government, calls for consensus approach to Budget policy

15 July 2016

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) congratulates the Coalition and Prime Minister Turnbull on regaining government.

ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said: “The community sector looks forward to working with the Government to ensure that economic growth is strong and inclusive and lifts the living standards of people who have the least, with social policy front and centre in its next term.

“The new Government, and the country, face real challenges. Growth in the economy and jobs is slowing, more people are struggling to make ends meet, and public budgets – both Federal and State – are under pressure,” said Dr Goldie.

“The community understands that hard decisions must be made, but since the 2014 Budget it has resoundingly rejected policies that shift the costs onto people who can least afford to pay, including people who can’t get paid work, families on low incomes, and people with a chronic illness. This is what the close election result tells us, and it’s vital the Government heeds that message and works with the community to build support for acceptable reforms.

“A new direction for restoring the Budget in a fair and sustainable way needs to be set, including to:

  • Shield people on low incomes from Budget savings, including the proposed cuts to unemployment and family payments, and Energy Supplements, that together would leave many low-income families $100 a week worse off.
  • Reduce the cost of rapidly-growing programs and tax breaks that are not fit for purpose. This includes the proposed $6 billion reduction in superannuation tax breaks for people with higher incomes or wealth, tightening the Private Health Insurance Rebate, reducing the 50% Capital Gains Tax discount, and addressing negative gearing.The Government could expect bipartisan support from Labor or the Greens for many of these budget savings.
  • Only proceed with company and personal income tax cuts if it’s clear they are funded by fairly and efficiently broadening the base of these taxes and they will deliver the claimed economic benefits.
  • Lifting the Newstart Allowance as a matter of urgency, given it has not been increased for two decades and is only $38 per day. This could be funded in part by progressively phasing out poorly performing schemes such as ‘Income Management’.
  • Guarantee access to essential services such as health care to all who need them, while reviewing the way they are funded and delivered (e.g. funding arrangements for hospitals) to improve their long-term cost effectiveness.
  • “Budgets are about priorities. It’s not acceptable for a single parent family living on $600 a week to take a hit to their income, or for people with chronic illness to pay more for their prescriptions or doctor’s visits, while tax breaks remain in place for a person with over $1.6 million in their super account.

“Community support for reform is grounded in an adequate safety net, an affordable and secure home, being treated with dignity and respect, and essential services like health and education. These social protections depend on growth in the economy, secure jobs and a strong tax base.

“Good economic policy cannot be delivered without a strong social policy agenda. And addressing climate change requires exactly this approach.

.”We look forward to working with the new Government on each of these fronts,” Dr Goldie said.

Contact:  Australian Council of Social Service, 0419 626 155