The Australian Council of Social Service congratulates members of the new Morrison Government Ministry, especially Minister Ken Wyatt, the first Aboriginal Commonwealth Cabinet Minister and Minister for Indigenous Australians, as National Reconciliation Week begins.
ACOSS Director of Policy Jacqueline Phillips said:
“We warmly congratulate Minister Wyatt on his historic appointment, which we hope will mark a new era in relations between the government and First Nations peoples – one centered on self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations have the answers to the problems that confront their communities and it’s time for government to listen.
“The Morrison Government has been elected on a promise to guarantee funding for essential services and we will work with the Government, our members and the community to ensure that this promise is fulfilled, including through the development of Services Australia and the rollout of the NDIS.
“ACOSS looks forward to working with the new Minister for Families and Social Services, Anne Ruston, and is ready to assist her in engaging people directly impacted by policies and programs, especially people living in poverty.
“We also look forward to engaging Minister for Housing Michael Sukkar and Assistant Minister for Community Housing, Homelessness and Community Services, Luke Howarth, on the country’s housing affordability crisis, which is leaving far too many people struggling to pay rent, at risk of eviction, or sleeping rough.
“We urge Minister Ruston, Assistant Minister Howarth and the Assistant Minister for Charities Zed Seselja to strengthen the Government’s relationship with the community sector. ACOSS believes that the lifting of restrictions on the ability of government-funded organisations to advocate on behalf of the people they represent or assist is needed, to give a voice to people affected by government policies.
“We welcome the elevation of the NDIS to a ministry. Improving the roll out of the NDIS must be an urgent priority for the Morrison Government along with the Royal Commission into violence against people with disability.
“The NDIS is part of a large portfolio held by Minister Stuart Robert, who will oversee the new Services Australia, including Medicare and Centrelink. We welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to making these services accessible for people and there is much room for improvement, especially in Centrelink. “People relying on income support should not endure long waits to speak to someone at Centrelink with the knowledge and authority to resolve their problems. The ‘robodebt’ debacle shows that attempts to replace face-to-face contact with decision-makers with digital platforms to achieve short-term savings are destined to fail.
“Face-to-face and phone contact with service providers sits at the heart of decent human services, and the Government’s challenge is to build digital platforms around this, and to strengthen the new Department’s engagement with service users.
“People on low incomes are hit hardest by the impacts of climate change and ACOSS is keen to work with the government to support a rapid transition to clean energy while reducing energy bills for people on low incomes. This requires emissions reduction policy, investment in energy efficiency for existing homes, help for low-income households to access solar and batteries, and support for workers and communities as part of the inevitable energy transition.
“We welcome the increased number of women in the Ministry, however, note we still have a long way to go on gender equality and diversity in the Government and the Parliament,” Ms Phillips said.