Universal dental care more important, less expensive, than tax cuts

18 March 2019

The Australian Council of Social Service is firmly opposed to more tax cuts in the upcoming budget, instead calling on government to invest in strengthening our income support system and delivering quality services, including dental care.

Australian Council of Social Service CEO, Dr Cassandra Goldie, welcomed the Grattan Institute’s calls today for staged introduction of universal dental care, saying:

“The Grattan Institute’s plan for universal dental care would cost $5.6 billion a year. This is half of the cost of bringing forward the already-announced tax cuts for the top 20% of taxpayers, and half the cost of tax cuts modelled in today’s report by Deloitte Access Economics.

“Now is not the time for more tax cuts, as Deloitte also urges. This Government has already cut personal income tax cuts twice:

  1. $4 billion per annum in personal income tax cuts for people on $80 000 or more; and
  2. $140 billion over six years which, when fully implemented, will give the greatest benefit to the top 20%, and cost the budget $11 billion per annum for just the top 20%.

These tax cuts are on top of the proposed $65 billion over 10 years in corporate tax cuts.  Tax cuts for corporations with turnover of $50 million or less have already been legislated.

We need to give urgent priority to lifting up the incomes of people on the lowest and funding for quality essential services, including dental care, a major gap in our universal health system.

“Decent dental care in Australia is becoming restricted to people on high incomes. The Grattan Institute report released today warns that two million people on low to modest incomes are avoiding visits to the dentist for routine checkups. Even when someone has a dental health crisis, many languish on long public waiting lists.

“When people have major dental problems that go untreated, it impacts on their ability to live their lives, including to eat well, secure employment, and be engaged in their communities. People struggling from below the poverty line are the most acutely affected by the lack of universal dental care services.

“We should be able to enjoy the collective peace of mind that there is enough funding for the services we need, such as quality education, healthcare and a decent income support system. More tax cuts put this at great risk, as we know from the experience of tax cuts in the 2000s that led to harsh spending cuts a decade later.

“Along with Increasing Newstart Allowance and restoring cuts to other payments such as Family Tax Benefits, taking the first step towards a universal dental health scheme would cost less than planned high-end tax cuts and provide a greater boost to flagging economic growth,” Dr Goldie said.