Social security boost and tax reform needed in federal budget

ACOSS acknowledges National Close the Gap Day and urges governments to respond to the calls from First Nations peoples for action to Close the Gap in outcomes for communities and to deliver on Voice, Treaty and Truth.

The federal budget must raise social security payments to provide immediate cost-of-living relief for people who need it most and targeted investment to grow jobs and incomes during a period of rising unemployment, said ACOSS.

ACOSS’ budget submission calls for JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and related payments to be lifted to at least the pension rate, currently $80 per day. JobSeeker is currently just $55, and Youth allowance $45, per day.

The peak body is calling for supplementary payments for illness, disability and single parenthood, and an increase to the remote area allowance which has not been lifted since 2000.

ACOSS is also calling for increased investment in homelessness and other crisis services unable to meet soaring demand.

The federal budget must invest to grow jobs and incomes during a period of rising unemployment. Investments should include subsidising paid work experience and vocational education to help people unemployed long term, a $2 billion fund to retrofit low-income housing to make it more energy efficient, and substantially increasing homes for social housing. 

The government must also make lasting tax reforms to grow the revenue needed to end poverty, tackle the housing and climate crises, and fund essential services and safety nets well into the future, including limiting tax breaks for property investors and making tax breaks for superannuation fairer.   

ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said: “As we approach this budget, we’re witnessing a level of financial distress that we haven’t seen since the recession of the early 1990s. 

“The stark divide between those with wealth and those in severe financial distress is more apparent than ever before. 

“Communities are teetering on a delicate balance, making this budget a pivotal moment that will determine our collective future health and prosperity.

“People living on woefully low income support payments are doing things like eating one meal a day, turning off the fridge at night to save electricity and cutting diabetes medication by half to make it last longer.

“Finally lifting JobSeeker and related payments to livable levels will provide effective, immediate relief to people who need it most who will get no relief at all from the stage three tax cuts.

“Raising income support provides targeted investment as we enter a period of rising unemployment. It’s not only compassionate but also economically wise.  

“This budget must outline policies to boost jobs and incomes, as well as reform our tax system including by reducing outdated and perverse tax breaks for investors and making the tax treatment of superannuation fairer.

“Australia is the ninth-lowest taxing among 40 OECD nations and needs more revenue to fund quality essential services and social safety nets over the long term.

“Our proposals for increasing income support payments, enhancing job growth and incomes, and reforming our tax system will ensure a more equitable and prosperous future for all people in Australia”

ACOSS is calling for:

  • Immediate relief for people struggling the most:
    • Lift JobSeeker and related income supports to at least the pension rate, currently $80 a day and substantially boost Remote Area Allowance
    • Boost funding for homelessness and other crisis services
    • Remove the small-scale renewable energy levy (the SRES) from electricity bills and fund it directly from the budget, which – unlike energy rebates – would provide permanent relief, reducing an average bill by $70 a year 
  • Policies to grow jobs and incomes, while reducing costs for people with the least:
    • Subsidise paid work experience and vocational education to help people unemployed long-term to find paid work
    • Boost funds for new social housing stock to meet the scale of the shortfall 
    • Invest in home energy upgrades and solar for low-income housing
  • Tax reforms to fund essential services, improve fairness and tackle the housing and climate crisis:
    • Deny tax deductions to landlords with vacant properties and those rented  short-term on sites like Airbnb
    • Limit negative gearing so expenses can only be offset against income from the same class of investment
    • Curb use of tax shelters to avoid the Medicare Levy 
    • Introduce a 15% levy on superannuation investment income post-retirement 
    • Reduce the capital gains discount from 50% to 25%
    • Introduce a 10% Commonwealth royalty on offshore gas resources