A budget people can’t rely on

29 March 2022

As the housing and climate crises deepens, and we brace for the next wave of the COVID-19 pandemic to hit, the Federal Budget is not a budget people can rely on. It is a flash in the pan budget that delivers temporary fixes when we need permanent solutions to address the huge challenges we face as a nation.

Australian Council of Social Service CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said:
“This budget ignores the big challenges that this country faces right now, which are poverty, inequality and climate change. It doesn’t deliver a budget people can rely on.

“This budget is full of temporary fixes, when we need permanent solutions.

“Much of the assistance goes to people who don’t need it, and too little goes to people who need support.

“One of the biggest spends in this budget is more tax cuts, such as the cuts to the fuel excise and the tax offset. Almost $3 billion goes to reducing the fuel excise, which offers little help at the bowser and would have been much better spent lifting income support and boosting social and affordable housing. The $450 one-off tax offset is overshadowed by the $16 billion annual tax cuts baked into the budget, most of which go to men on the highest incomes.

“The budget does nothing to lift the incomes of people with the least. Whilst we welcome the extension of $250 bonus payment to people on pensions and allowances, when if you’re living on $46 a day, this payment will help for a week or two, but people have to pay the rent 52 weeks a year.

“This is not a slash and burn budget, and we’re relieved that there are no big cuts that would hurt people with the least and the essential services they rely on.

“Unfortunately, although the government says this is a cost-of-living budget, it fails to deal with the biggest cost of living, which is housing. Perversely, its housing measures will very likely push up house prices and make housing affordability worse.

“This budget fails to deliver the investment in social housing needed to put a roof over the heads of people on low incomes.

“Despite the ongoing natural disasters we are witnessing, nothing in this budget delivers sufficient income support to people facing the devastation of disasters. The Disaster Payment remains at $1,000 for adults, when it should be permanently tripled. Likewise, there is nothing to deliver energy efficiency technologies for people on low incomes.

“The budget ends the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment in June, which will hurt lowest-paid workers without access to sick leave. And while all workers, regardless of income, will get a tax deduction for their Rapid Antigen Tests, the free Rapid Antigen Tests for concession card holders will end, despite them being in greatest need of support.

“We welcome the reduction in the safety net threshold for the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme, which will help pensioners and others on income support afford essential medicines.

“We’re pleased that single parents will be able to access 20 weeks of Paid Parental Leave. This is long overdue, and there is no extension otherwise to the number of weeks or an increase to the payment.

“We welcome the continuation of the $5,000 support packages for women to escape an abusive partner but we need to see significantly more investment to keep women safe.

“We were hoping that in this budget we’d see the major investment in care services that’s desperately needed, including funding to lift the pay of care workers, most of whom are women.

“The country needed a budget that delivered solutions for the long term to reduce poverty and inequality and address climate change. We didn’t see that tonight.”