This is a budget that delivers on some of the government’s important election commitments, and ACOSS welcomes them.
We are pleased to see the $560m investment in community services, as well as investment in aged care, paid parental leave and child care. We also welcome funding for 500 frontline workers to support women and children escaping domestic violence. We will continue to advocate for the government to improve the level of investment in community services over the longer term.
We now have a new cross-government housing accord, which lays the foundations for increasing the supply of social and affordable housing in Australia to deal with the housing crisis. The Commonwealth’s housing investment will build 40,000 dwellings (half social, half affordable) over five years. This is a serious start to tackling the housing crisis. We will need a lot more social housing dwellings to ensure everyone has a home.
Other measures we welcome include provision for at least $3b in disaster payments over 5 years, investment in The Voice and an Anti-racism Strategy, 500,000 fee-free TAFE places, and restoration of frontline jobs at Centrelink.
We remain deeply concerned about the lack of action to lift the incomes of people living on payments like JobSeeker, which is just $48 a day. There are over 3 million people living in poverty, with many on JobSeeker and Youth Allowance forced to skip meals and essential medication, and live in their cars.
In a wealthy country like Australia, we should not condemn people to living on such inadequate incomes.
People on the lowest incomes face multiple and unrelenting crises including high inflation, 150,000 more people unemployed in 2023, rents up 10% in just one year, high debt as well as multiple climate disasters. So, this must be the beginning and not the end of the hard work this government must do. We must see an urgent increase in income support for people on the lowest incomes in Australia.
The Federal Government must lift JobSeeker and related income support payments to at least $73 a day, increase Rent Assistance by 50%, and establish supplements for people with disability and single parents to recognise the additional costs they face.
The Government must also take urgent direct action to reduce inflation, including by capping increases in gas prices, and invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy for low-income households.
We’re also very troubled to see that budget spending is forecast to increase by only 0.3% per annum, after inflation, when we know we must deliver critical essential services to meet community need. It’s obvious the government will need more revenue to meet the community’s urgent needs, and for this reason, we cannot afford the $19b a year tax cuts starting in 2024. The government must reverse these tax cuts.
Australian Council of Social Service CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said:
“We remain deeply concerned for people who have the least and are in chronic financial distress – people who are unemployed, single parents, people with disabilities, students and people on temporary visas. There isn’t enough in this budget to help them right now.
“People on the lowest incomes are facing multiple and unrelenting crises right now – extreme weather events, rising rents, food and fuel costs, and the prospect of more losing their jobs means that government must deliver on lifting incomes and social and affordable housing.
“Instead of spending money on stage 3 tax cuts, we could lift incomes, including jobseeker and disaster recovery payments, fund social housing, and adequately fund community services so they can help people when they need it most.
“These are the very essentials at the heart of a wellbeing budget, and what so many in our community need to get through difficult times.”