Targeting Budget waste needs to free up spending for poverty alleviation: ACOSS

The Australian Council of Social service has said it is very concerned with elements of the Opposition’s Budget reply speech that would see income reduced for the poorest people in our community.

“On the same day that the House of Representatives passed a motion declaring that the rate of Newstart Allowance is too low, it is particularly disappointing to hear that the Opposition plans to take away a $4 a week supplement that provides much needed extra support. For these households, every dollar counts,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“This is inconsistent with the overwhelming evidence and widespread consensus in the community that allowance payments like Newstart are way too low. The only logic in withdrawing the Income Support Bonus would be to make way for a clear commitment to increase the meagre $35 a day base rate of these allowances.

“With one in eight people in poverty in Australia we need to be doing more to alleviate poverty, not less. It’s hard to see how stripping $210 from more than one million people on the lowest incomes will make the situation better.

“The announcement that the Low Income Superannuation Contribution will be scrapped will also hurt low income earners who are most in need of a boost to their retirement savings. Superannuation tax concessions are already skewed towards the top end of income earners, yet this plan will further disadvantage those on lower incomes.

“We understand the current fiscal challenges and agree that we need bold action to strengthen the Budget if we are to fund important social infrastructure programs for our nation. We are pleased that it appears that some of the savings in this area will have bi-partisan support, such as the Medical Expenses Tax Offset. The reality is that most of the current waste in the Budget is on the revenue side, in the form of unsustainable tax breaks and concessions that predominantly benefit people on higher incomes. These are the areas we should be targeting for reform, not the income to people who are already living below the poverty line.

“There is no doubt that whoever forms government after the coming election will have a major task ahead in securing a sustainable revenue stream for vital services and infrastructure. These measures can be done with wide public support by targeting waste, not the essential services and benefits for people who are struggling the most.

“We welcome the proposal to develop a white paper to progress tax reform. Ultimately we need comprehensive tax reform that takes Henry Tax review proposals forward.

“We also need a national conversation about what benefits and services we can expect from government to focus on unmet needs, such as disability care, health, education and the alleviation of poverty in our country. Public spending should be rebalanced towards those who need support the most,” Dr Goldie said.

ACOSS Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155