ACOSS called this year’s Budget a down payment on social inclusion and was pleased that low income and disadvantaged people were spared from most of the cuts.
Areas of spending that progressed the social inclusion agenda and that will assist the 2.2 million Australians living in poverty included: housing and homelessness, Indigenous health and housing, child care and early childhood education, dental care, vocational education and training, public hospital funding, and carer payments.
Welcome initiatives included the Social Inclusion Unit and commitment to that agenda, early years learning framework and tightening of Family Tax Benefit by removing exemptions.
ACOSS was pleased to see that the Government has sought savings by curbing access to Family Tax Benefit Part B and the Baby Bonus for high income earners and will raise revenue by increasing tax on luxury cars and other tax measures.
The changes made to the Job Network to invest in highly disadvantaged jobseekers were welcomed, including the greater emphasis on training, more flexibility and decreased reliance on the harsh 8 weekwithdrawal of payments.
Highlighted areas of new investment over the coming 3-5 years to improve the lives of low income Australians included:
- Indigenous disadvantage $600m+
- Preschool funding $534m
- Productivity Places $1.9 b
- Dental $780m
- NRAS $623m
- Public Hospitals $1.6b
- Homelessness $150m
- Utilities Allowance $4.6b
- Extension of Carer Payment $274m
- Doubling Financial Counselling $20m
The $28.7 billion in tax cuts could have been used to further progress the Social Inclusion Agenda through greater investment in services and supports.
ACOSS will be looking for further investments in social inclusion from the Government in future, including:
- Increased resources to health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
- Further investment for low income jobless Australians
- More investment in dental care for low income and disadvantaged Australians
- Greater investment in public and community housing
- Funding for capacity building of the community and welfare sector including indexation
- Development of a climate change adjustment package for low income Australians
- Redirection of incentives towards low income people in the superannuation system
- Removal of the Private Health Insurance Rebate for ‘extras’ cover and investing the savings in improving public access to health services such as dental care, counselling and physiotherapy.