The Budget must urgently address the cost of living crisis by raising JobSeeker to at least $76 a day while improving the energy efficiency of low-income homes and investing in social housing, according to a wide-ranging Federal Budget submission from the Australian Council of Social Service.
The Albanese Government must put people with the lowest incomes at the forefront of its first major Budget by relieving financial stress and tackling inflation directly in a way that reduces hardship.
The Budget must also build the foundations for a more inclusive future by raising the revenue we need to fund essential services over the long term.
In the past year, living standards for people on lower incomes have been significantly eroded by the soaring costs of essentials such as food, rent and energy.
The Budget must finally raise the base rate of working-age income support payments including JobSeeker, which is the second lowest unemployment payment in wealthy nations and insufficient to sustain an adequate standard of living.
ACOSS welcomes the government’s modest superannuation changes but more needs to be done to raise adequate revenue including cancelling the $18 billion-a-year Stage Three tax cuts which overwhelmingly benefit the top 20 per cent of income earners – mostly men.
The Federal Government should also abolish the private health insurance rebate and fossil fuel subsidies, restrict investment property tax breaks and reduce Capital Gains Tax concessions.
It should introduce a 15 per cent levy on post-retirement super earnings, a sugary drinks tax, an offshore gas royalty and broaden the base of the Medicare Levy to ensure people contribute according to their capacity to pay.
ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said the government must start making bold decisions to responsibly tackle our biggest challenges.
“With more than three million people in poverty in Australia, this Budget must deliver cost of living relief for those who need it most and help shape a more inclusive society,” Dr Goldie said.
“This means making the right choices about who needs more government support and who needs less.
“The Labor Government came to power promising that no-one would be left behind. But right now people on income support are skipping meals, foregoing essential medicines and turning off their hot water just to keep a roof over their head.
“They cannot wait a second longer for action to alleviate this unnecessary suffering.
“To fund quality essential services and a social security system that meets need, the government must create a fairer tax system and should start by cancelling stage 3 tax cuts for the wealthiest in our society.
“This Budget must also invest in quality community services, outline action on climate change that benefits low-income households, expand employment opportunities and improve housing affordability. Our budget proposals strengthen gender equality, and tackle poverty and disadvantage as structural problems that governments have the power to address. We need a bold government now to act.”
ACOSS is calling for a Federal Budget that:
- Builds a social security system that meets need: Lift base rates of income support payments like JobSeeker and Youth Allowance to the same level as the single pension ($513 per week, including pension supplement) and index all working-age payments twice per year in line with Consumer Price Index (CPI) and wages.
- Creates a fairer tax system that supports services, safety nets and economic development: Do not proceed with the 2024-25 income tax cuts.
- Invests in quality community services to help people in need: Apply proper and transparent indexation to community services funding and invest in service needs mapping as first step towards needs-based funding.
- Outlines fair, fast and inclusive action on climate change: Invest in energy efficiency improvements for low-income homes to cut emissions and energy bills and create thousands of local jobs.
- Provides employment opportunities for all: Commit to full employment through a full employment target agreed between the Government and the Reserve Bank of Australia and Introduce a flexible Jobs and Training Offer for people unemployed long-term.
- Makes housing affordable: should build on the housing policy and institutional foundations being established by committing to a 10 year, 25,000 dwelling per year pipeline of social housing investment and benchmark Rent Assistance for private tenants with low incomes to actual rents.