Pathway to surplus and investment in primary healthcare welcomed but not enough help for unemployed

ACOSS has welcomed the release of the Federal Budget which forecasts an earlier-than-expected return to surplus and unemployment declining faster than predicted.

“The resource rental tax has created an economically sensible way for the Government to fund services for the community, especially services for the most vulnerable Australians.

“The $2.2 billion for more GPs and to improve primary healthcare is a significant investment that will assist Australians have better access to affordable healthcare,” said Clare Martin, CEO, Australian Council of Social Service.

“Dental care remains the critical gap. 2.3 million Australians go without dental care because they cannot afford it. Universal access to oral healthcare is vital so that all Australians can have dental care when they need it.

“We applaud the Government’s commitment to literacy and the investment of $119 million for a literacy and numeracy skills program which will go some of the way to assist jobseekers into work or training.

“With over 600,000 Australians out of work, ACOSS is disappointed to see there is not more support for Australians looking for work, especially for the 350,000 people who have been without work for over a year.

“This Budget has meant little for unemployed Australians who still must survive on $33 per day. Unemployment has devastating effects for individuals and the whole community. It is too important an issue to overlook.”

ACOSS has been advocating for the single Newstart payment to be lifted to $39 per day, or $276 per week.

“The $120 weekly gap between pensions and allowances has caused disincentives for people on disability support payments to move into work. If these payments were equalised, there would be less need for measures such as the push to restrict access to the disability support pension,” said Ms Martin.

“Low-income people will benefit from the introduction of standard deductions for tax returns as they are less likely to routinely claim deductions. But the 50% tax discount on savings is unlikely to be much of a positive as a person needs to have $20,000 in savings for this measure to make a difference.

ACOSS continues to strongly support the $5.6 billion investment in social housing that was introduced in the stimulus packages. We expressed our disappointment that the Government did not take up the Henry Review’s recommendations to tackle affordable housing where there is a critical shortage of 251,000 homes.

One recommendation that could have been implemented in this Budget was an increase to rent assistance. ACOSS has proposed an increase of $15 per week for those on the highest rate to protect low-income earners cope with rising rents.

Media Contact: Clare Cameron, ACOSS – 0419 626 155