ACOSS calls on Coalition to retreat from Budget measures that hurt people in poverty

15 June 2016

ACOSS has called on the Coalition to retreat from pursing the so-called ‘Zombie’ and other Federal budget policy measures that would reduce incomes to adults and children at risk of or already living in poverty.

“Casting a shadow over this year’s federal election campaign are $18 billion dollars of ‘zombie’ Budget measures, including payment cuts from the controversial 2014 Federal Budget that hit people on low incomes in Australia” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“Also hanging over the heads of low-income households are $1.4 billion in proposed cuts to Energy Supplement payments to people claiming pensions, allowances and family payments announced in the 2016 Budget.

Combined, if implemented by a new Coalition government, these cuts will mean that:

  • a sole parent with two teenage children and no private income (who applies for social security after these measures take effect) would be $96pw worse off.
  • an unemployed 22 year old living independently of their parents would forego $1,053 in income support while waiting an extra month for benefits, and then receive $51pw less.
  • All new recipients of social security, including people who are unemployed, carers, single parents, people with disabilities and age pensioners would be worse off by at least $4pw for singles and $8pw for couples, plus at least $2pw per child due to withdrawal of the Energy Supplement. This would remove the last remaining real increase in Newstart for the last two decades.

“The 2014 Budget proposals were soundly rejected by the community, policy experts and repeatedly by the Senate yet, in a breach of budget transparency, the measures remain on the books. Income support for people at risk of poverty are the last place that government should look for Budget savings,” said Dr Goldie.

We know that people on low incomes are already seriously struggling to make ends meet. The evidence is clear and compelling.

  • ACOSS research shows that there are 2.5 million people living in poverty, including 600,000 children.
  • A recent survey by the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children found that up to 65% of single parents are going without food in order to ensure their children have enough.
  • A recent Salvation Army survey found that nearly 70% of their clients experienced extreme housing stress and one in five families surveyed could not afford medical treatment for their children.
  • Anglicare has again confirmed that for people on low incomes there is virtually no rental accommodation in larger cities that is affordable. Of the more than 75 000 rental properties surveyed across Australia only 21 were affordable for single adults living on Newstart, only one was suitable for young people living on Youth Allowance.
  • St Vincent De Paul just last week reported extensive rates of electricity disconnections for households on low incomes due to high housing, food and transport costs. They found in one Melbourne suburb (Werribee) more than 500 households were disconnected twice in 3 years.

“With both Labor and the Greens ruling out these measures, we call on the Coalition to do the same.

“We welcome Labor’s announcement last week that they continue to oppose proposed social security payment cuts to households on the lowest incomes and their commitment to review the adequacy of the Newstart Allowance.”

“We also welcome the Australian Greens’ support for their commitment to increase the Newstart payment and to establish a payments commission,” said Dr Goldie.
Download ACOSS policy briefing: Budget and election policies affecting unemployed people and families on low incomes – ‘Zombie’ budget cuts must be put to rest.

Dr Cassandra Goldie will be speaking at The Guardian Live election panel in Sydney ‘What Is fair?
Media Contact:  0419 626 155