New Cabinet: Opportunity to reset unfair Budget policies and work together on major reforms

22 December 2014

The Australian Council of Social Service today responded to the Prime Minister’s cabinet reshuffle by calling on the Government to seize the opportunity to reset its budget and work with the community, including by engaging with those experiencing poverty and disadvantage, on major reforms.

ACOSS Acting CEO Dr Tessa Boyd-Caine said, “The community has voiced its strong opposition to the harshest measures in the federal budget. Now is the time for the government to listen to these concerns and bring the community together down a budget reform path which is fair and sustainable.”

“We look forward to working constructively with Minister Morrison and the Government in the coming year to ensure effective policy and service delivery, including as it prepares its new families package.

“The Social Services portfolio is critical to ensure adequate support to people and communities facing poverty and inequality across Australia, and to supporting employment participation. Minister Morrison, and other Minister’s responsible for health, education and employment, will play a critical role in determining how the Government best meets the needs of the many people outside the labour market.

“When the Prime Minister took office in September 2013, he said this would be a Government for everyone that would ‘not leave anyone behind’. This reshuffle is the chance for the Government to reset on that commitment and to abandon damaging measures from the 2014 Budget such as withdrawing payments for young unemployed people for six months of each year; restricting access to Newstart to over 25s; freezing family payments; lowering indexation of pensions; further targeting of people on disability support pension; and introducing a GP co-payment.

“We know that frontline agencies are struggling to meet growing demand for services with 2.5 million people now living below the poverty line. At the same time we’ve seen severe cuts to Department of Social Security funding of around a quarter of a billion dollars. That will reduce our ability to meet increasing need in our community.

“In an economic downturn with growing unemployment, we must ensure that our social protection system is robust. It’s not a time to slash these supports and programs.

“As the peak body for this important sector, ACOSS will continue to provide expert advice to government, grounded in the experience of people and communities living in poverty, and connecting communities with government decision-making processes.

“The former Minister Kevin Andrews demonstrated a commitment to meaningful engagement with ACOSS and people with lived experience of poverty and exclusion, even in the face of policy disagreement. We wish him well in his new portfolio of Defence,” Dr Boyd-Caine said.

Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155

Find out more about cuts to social services here.