New leadership must unite the country and include community in decision making

Australia’s peak community welfare body, ACOSS, has called on the new national political leadership to strive to unite the country through fair, inclusive and collaborative decision-making in addressing the nation’s economic, social and environmental challenges.

“We welcome the new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s commitment to develop policies in a collaborative manner. This must include consultation with the community in an open process so together we can come up with the right long term policies for our nation,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“This is an important moment in time, with our economy going in the wrong direction and no plan to fix it. We need the Federal Government to work with the community, business and unions to map out a reform plan through consensus. The recent National Reform Summit, which came about through frustration at the lack of government leadership in the reform process, showed that this can be done – we can find common ground.

“Our nation also faces growing social divisions through policies that have played on disunity and allowed the gap between the wealthiest and poorest people to widen. ACOSS has highlighted this growing disparity in a number of reports and submissions to government, and it’s been demonstrated again today in a new Anglicare Australia report showing that the poorest households have been falling further behind over the past decade. Worse still, the report points out that if current budget measures are implemented the living standards of low income households will fall even further.

“The new Prime Minister can make a start by immediately scrapping harsh budget proposals, including the plan to make young people wait four weeks for unemployment benefits and cuts to family payments that will particularly hurt single parent families.

“We want to see an end to victim blaming and the targeting of people struggling on social security at a time of rising unemployment and a slowing economy.

“We need to lift the standard of community debates and reignite participatory democracy. This means bringing the community into the discussion and the reform effort – not just making them ‘understand’ or ‘sell something’ already decided.

“We also must see an end to government attacks on community advocacy through funding cuts aimed at silencing diverse voices from being heard. Community voices play a crucial role in providing on-the-ground advice and an important link connecting communities with government decision-making processes.

“We wish the new Prime Minister well and will continue to work with governments of all description in the national interest,” Dr Goldie said.

Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas – 0419 626 155