19 April 2012
The Australian Council of Social Service has called for a balanced debate about how public money is spent in Australia and how we will fund the essential social services and infrastructure we all want into the future following comments made by Opposition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey overnight.
“All people, regardless of where they live, have the right to healthcare, education and other crucial social support services. We should take pride in a social security system which has been designed to help guard against poverty and disadvantage in Australia. We need to now build on that system, and address urgent gaps, such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme, dental health and increasing the unemployment payment,’ said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.
“Despite the rhetoric, Australia is neither a high taxing country nor do we spend as much on welfare as other OECD nations. The reality is that spending on working age payments has been falling for last decade (not including the GFC), and the vast majority goes to pay for age pensions and family payments. But certainly we will face challenges from the changing nature of our population.
“This is why ACOSS has been calling for the tackling of tax loopholes and better targeting of spending. We have called for the better means testing of entitlements such as the Private Health Insurance rebate and others, to ensure they go to people in the greatest need. We’ve also been arguing that everyone should pay their fair share of tax and for the Government to tackle the array of unfair tax breaks for people on higher incomes as recommended by the Henry Tax Review.
“If this is done in the upcoming Budget, we can put our budget in a position to be able to fund the vital essential services we all want to see, instead of considering cutting crucial community programs and benefits for people who most need it.
“The problem is not that people in Australia are over-taxed or spend uncontrollably on essential services like health, education, aged care, or for people with disabilities for example – we actually don’t spend enough in these important areas and the demand on these are growing.
“ACOSS has identified nearly $5 billion in savings in our Budget submission which could easily fund our urgent call for an increase to Newstart and other low paying Allowances, which hasn’t been increased in real terms since 1994. These Allowances are clearly inadequate and the lowest for unemployed people in the OECD.
“People on the Newstart Allowance are now living on just $35 a day, which is further below the poverty line, and if we want to prevent worsening poverty in our own backyard and retain our reputation as a truly fair and egalitarian nation we need to address this.
“ACOSS accepts that our economy needs to be strong to enable us to provide the social services and infrastructure our community needs. However, we will not accept that our wealthy nation should allow people to fall deeper into poverty in that endeavour. Nor should we allow a further chipping away of our important and enviable social safety net system,”Dr Goldie said.
Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155