The Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill – Omnibus Mark 2 – is unfair and should not have passed

23 March 2017

ACOSS is appalled the Turnbull government rammed through social security cuts late last night that will have the biggest impact on people on low incomes, including families.

Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS, says our children and their parents will be sorely affected by the government’s Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill, a watered-down version of the previous Omnibus Bill that still attacks Australia’s hardest hit families.

“The Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill is unfair and should not have been passed. Overnight the lives of people in over 1.5 million households have been altered for the worse.

“These cuts are specifically aimed at hitting people on low-incomes.

“The Turnbull government is still talking about the need to pay for childcare reforms, despite childcare peak bodies saying the reforms will pay for themselves and should not be paid off the back of people in need.

“Since 2015, $3.6 billion has already been taken out of the family payments system.

“Let’s be really clear here. The government is scraping the pocket lining of Australia’s worst off to increase Budget savings.

“We acknowledge and applaud the opposition to these cuts by Senator Jacqui Lambie, Labor and the Greens.

“Young unemployed people and parents in need will have to wait for income support for seven days. It will now also be harder for them to show that they need an exemption to the one week because of financial hardship. We are very concerned this will harm people escaping domestic violence and throw people who are in financial hardship into destitution.

“Families will see their Family Tax Benefit drop by hundreds of dollars over two years because of the indexation freeze.  The biggest impact will be felt by low-income families, especially single parents at a time when already 40% of children living in one parent households live in poverty.

“The freeze of income free area indexation for working age and student payments will see a student lose around $4.70 per fortnight. This may not sound like a huge amount of money, but for 60,000 young students who will be affected, it is.

“The community sector has been very loud in their opposition to the government’s social security cuts, and their consultation with local communities and lobbying of members has brought some relief in that many of the cuts proposed in Omnibus mark 1 have been cast aside by the government.

“Along with the sector, we remain very concerned however that the rest of the ‘zombie’ cuts remain dormant. We call on the government to eliminate the zombies, once and for all, particularly as they were slated to pay for childcare reforms, which will pay for themselves through increased workforce participation.

“The ‘zombie’ measures would have been a devastating hit for families, and were a stroke too far.

“During Wednesday’s debate, Senator Xenophon made it clear that proposed cuts to the energy supplement, the pensioner education supplement and portability for pensions went too far. We commend the Nick Xenophon Team, as well as Labor, the Greens and Senator Lambie, and Senator Hinch for their continued opposition to these and other measures in the Omnibus mark 1, including the four week wait for young people who are unemployed, removal of the Energy Supplement and education payments, abolition of Family Tax Benefit end-of-year supplements and removing Family Tax Benefit for sole parents in the year their youngest child turns 17.

“We want an assurance from government they will bury the one-sided ‘zombie’ measures once and for all.

“We abhor the government’s process used to push through Omnibus mark 2 and the childcare reform package, including additional serious cuts to family tax benefits that were sprung on members without notice. The government is using families experiencing extreme hardship as political gambling chips.

“If childcare reforms are passed today without amendment, low income families and children will be doubly punished.

“While we’re pleased the government is debating childcare reform, we are very concerned for the 52,000 low income families whose children will have reduced access to early childhood education largely because of the proposed activity test.

“Right now, all families can access 24 hours of subsidised childcare per week.

“If the new activity test is included, children in low income families will lose out, on top of their parents taking a cut to income because of the FTB freeze. We call on the Parliament to ensure that this Bill does not leave children worse off.

“Inequality is the biggest risk to our economy. The Turnbull government must stop its malicious attack on people on the lowest incomes.”

Contact  Australian Council of Social Service 0419 626 155