ACOSS outlines proposals for first 100 days of new government

Monday August 12, 2013

In the run-up to next month’s federal election, the Australian Council of Social Service today unveiled a set of comprehensive proposals for the first 100 days of the new government.

“Whoever wins the September 7 poll will be faced with some big challenges requiring bold action to ensure our nation is fairer as well as prosperous,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“The reality is that despite more than two decades of strong economic growth, fault lines are emerging in our economic and social foundations that we simply cannot continue to ignore.

“There are major holes in our social safety net that the next government will have to  address – in affordable housing, education, disability, mental and dental health, and community controlled services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“Most alarming is the growing gap between those that are doing well and the people falling further behind. In spite of our wealth, a greater number of people are living in poverty, which will worsen as unemployment rises.

“Having 2.2 million people living below the poverty line, including nearly 600,000 children, is unacceptable. If we don’t take action to reverse this trend now, it will be more damaging and costly down the track.

“ACOSS wants to see the next Australian government set a specific target, a national development goal, to reduce poverty in our country. We want to see the development of an anti-poverty plan, and an annual report on progress to the Australian parliament.

“As part of this we need to increase the single rate of allowance payments, such as Newstart and Youth Allowance, by $50 per week and index them to wage movements, to alleviate and prevent worsening poverty.

“ACOSS understands the big task ahead for the next government to meet the needs and expectations of the community. It won’t be easy. However, we believe room can be made for investment in high-priority social programs by cutting waste in the Budget that has accumulated over the last decade (such as the Schoolkids Bonus and the Extended Medicare Safety Net).

“Ultimately, we need structural reform of Australia’s tax and transfer system. Therefore, ACOSS wants to see the new Federal Government commit to comprehensive tax reform, including a Green Paper and White Paper process to enable broad public consultation on tax. This should use the considered recommendations of the Henry Tax Review panel as the blueprint.

“We also call on the next government to come together with business, union and community groups to develop a compact about growing job opportunities, particularly for people who are long term unemployed. We are extremely concerned about rising unemployment, especially youth and long term unemployment, which is already at crisis level.

“ACOSS has developed concrete proposals in this area, including expanding the proven wage subsidy scheme and paid work experience, and greater investment in case management. We also need to tailor training and support to better prepare long term unemployed people for the available jobs of the future.

“In this election, we look to our political leaders for a clear plan to meet our challenges. We urge the ultimate winner to hit the road running with actions that demonstrate a commitment to deliver a fairer future for all – one which is inclusive and gives everyone the opportunity to participate and enjoy a healthy, decent and productive life,” Dr Goldie said.

Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas – 0419 626 155

Download ACOSS Election Statement: Bold Action for a Fairer Future

ACOSS proposals in brief:

In its first 100 days, the next Australian Government should commit to:

  • Commence a Green Paper and White Paper process for tax reform using the Henry Tax Review as blueprint
  • Commence the development of an anti-poverty plan. Set a specific target – a national development goal – and report annually on progress to the Australian parliament.
  • Promise to increase the single rate of Allowances, including Youth Allowance and Newstart, by $50 per week and index them to wage movements
  • Review family payments, including the Schools Kids Bonus, to target the payments to child poverty prevention, improving the income support for the poorest families.
  • Bring together business, union and community groups to make a compact about growing job opportunities particularly for people who are long term unemployed.
  • Commit to the National Rental Affordability Scheme as a long term government priority
  • Commence negotiations with the states and territories to fund a long term plan of action to expand affordable housing options and reduce homelessness.
  • Commit to investing in effective community based health care that creates healthy lives while reducing the pressure on hospitals and health budgets.
  • Make a long-term investment to improve Australia’s mental and oral health so that neither condition predicts poverty, disadvantage or isolation.
  • Outline the policies that will ensure people with disability can get the job and income they need to live with dignity
  • Reaffirm commitment to the findings and recommendations of the Gonski review.
  • Agree on a timetable to hold a referendum on recognising Australia’s First Peoples in the Constitution.
  • Commit to developing justice targets in relation to the Safe Communities Building Block under ‘Closing the Gap’ and to achieving such through the implementation of a National Partnership Agreement.
  • Abolish compulsory income management and redirect the savings to community development initiatives based on strong partnerships with local community leaders to improve economic and social outcomes at the local level.
  • Commit to strengthening engagement with civil society (for example through the COAG Reform Council) and ensure mechanisms for civil society to contribute to the broad agenda for structural reform.
  • Include the community sector in national economic reform agendas to ensure everyone shares the benefits of lifting productivity, jobs growth, structural shifts in our industries and developing a strong economic future.