The peak body for Australia’s community sector, ACOSS, has backed the Treasurer Wayne Swan’s call for a national debate about ‘the kind of country we want to be’ and how best to share the wealth of our nation to ensure that Australia remains the country of a ‘fair go’.
“Now is the time for this kind of debate with the resources boom leading to distortions in our two speed economy, and the growing pressures on important social services as our population ages. This is a critical time in Australia’s history and we need a national conversation so all voices are heard,” said Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO, The Australian Council of Social Service.
“As we saw with the mining tax and the move to price carbon pollution, it is too easy for the loudest voices to dominate the debates. We need to be strengthening civil society, and enabling all voices to be heard, particularly the voices of people who are more vulnerable, now and into the future.
“Last October’s Tax Forum was an important beginning to bring the community into the discussion, with the community sector well represented, and equally sharing in the debates. The Tax Forum lead to broad agreement among business, unions, community organisations and experts – that our economy and tax system should be reformed to tackle the costs of an ageing population, high housing prices, low productivity, and the challenges of workforce participation and poverty. Today, we have widely shared support, for example, that we must finally, and urgently, increase the income support for people who are unemployed. $35 a day is not enough.
“ACOSS argued that the Henry Report offered practical solutions to these problems and should be the starting point for such a discussion. We have supported Henry proposals such a resources rent tax; tackling income tax shelters and loopholes; making superannuation fairer to ensure retirement incomes for everyone; and ensuring a descent level of income support for the most disadvantaged people in our community.
“We simply must secure the future revenue base to fund the vital services we all want, such as good health, education, aged and child care, and other support services. These issues aren’t just about business interests. All sectors of society should be represented and heard in these key decisions because we all have a stake in our nation’s future.
“These issues are high on the mind of Australia’s community sector and will be the focus of the ACOSS National Conference later this month, which we’ve titled, ‘Sharing the Wealth of the Lucky Country’. We are delighted that business, civil society, academics, government, politicians, journalists, and consumer groups will all be present, engaged in this national discussion.
“Both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader have been invited to present their visions for improving equity and fairness in Australia and we hope this provides a platform for this much needed debate,” Dr Goldie said.
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