Budget 2019 fails those living in entrenched poverty

The 2019 Federal Budget anticipates a surplus in future years. But, what does a surplus mean to the everyday life of the growing number of families and single people who are, right now, living in entrenched poverty?

 

St Vincent de Paul Society

The Society’s National President, Ms Claire Victory, expressed concern that this year’s Federal Budget continues to ignore the plight of the most disadvantaged Australians. It fails to address two dominant drivers of poverty and disadvantage in Australia – the soaring costs of basic housing and below-poverty-level income support payments.

 

We are worried about what appears to be an ongoing meanness in the context of ‘personal responsibility’.

 

Ms Victory said, “We are disappointed this Budget neglects the urgent need for a comprehensive and long-term strategy that will tackle the ballooning problems of homelessness and housing for low-income earners, including a much needed increased investment in social housing” she said.

 

“Although homelessness in Australia continues to rise, the Budget offers no solution to putting a roof over the head of the more than 116,000 people experiencing homelessness and those on low incomes suffering severe rental stress,” said Ms Victory.

 

“The Treasurer says a strong economy is the key to delivering better government services. Yet instead of investing in essential social security payments, social housing, and community services, this Budget squanders an opportunity to balance the benefits of lifting household income delivered through tax cuts against giving a hand up to our most disadvantaged citizens who continue to be excluded from participation in the life of their community due to lack of money in their pockets,” said Ms Victory.

 

Brotherhood of St Laurence

Conny Lenneberg, Executive Director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence released the following statement regarding the 2019 Budget.

 

A Budget is more than a fiscal document or set of policy priories. It is, as acknowledged by Treasurer Frydenberg, a test of values. As we steer into a federal election where the ‘fair go’ is taking centre stage in our political discourse, there are deeply jarring numbers that don’t figure in the Budget papers we must reckon with as a nation.

 

Here are two stark examples. 

 

After 28 years of economy growth — a remarkable run of national prosperity — some 739, 000 children under 15 live in poverty.

 

Newstart, a payment conceived to assist unemployed people while they hunt for work, has, perversely, become an impediment to gaining work. Today the daily rate is as little as $39.69 for a single person, effectively frozen for 25 years. There is strong community consensus that these barely subsistence rates are depriving our fellow Australians of their dignity let alone providing enough money to maintain housing and put food in the table.

 

Prime Minister Robert Menzies said the state owed its people “not only a chance in life but a self-respecting life”.

 

Prime Minister Ben Chifley, the architect of our post-war welfare system said: “The modern ideal is that there should be social security provisions to protect every citizen in his or her emergencies, from the cradle to the grave.”

 

Today, despite our progress, peace and prosperity, we fall short of the goals articulated by these two foundational Prime Ministers.

 

We need to urgently reclaim the fair-go society that we all cherish as Australians. The Brotherhood of St Laurence believes that means, as a priority, repairing our fraying social security system with its arbitrary compliance regime, invocations of so-called ‘welfare dependency’ and narrowing scope of who is ‘deserving’ — and who is not.

 

As we step into the federal election, the Brotherhood of St Laurence challenges all political parties to lay down a vision for Australia that is truly inclusive and takes full account of groups in our society that are excluded from our nation’s abundance: these include Aboriginal and Torres islander peoples, young people in our outer suburbs and regions struggling to get secure work, sole parents who are overwhelmingly single mothers and their children, mature aged workers displaced by structural shifts in our economy and older people contemplating their senior years without secure housing.

 

Our nation faces a pivotal economic and social moment with the challenge of climate change, record rates of underemployment alongside unemployment, the impact of technology and a housing affordability crisis that deeply impacts on people on very low incomes.

 

The risks are great for the resilience of our society, and especially for the most disadvantaged Australians. For the health of our economy and society, we need to invest in building people’s skills and abilities so they can participate in mainstream Australian life.

 

Most of all, we need the right policy settings for the emerging generation – this means thoughtful investment in supports for our children, young people and their families. Tax cuts are not the policy prescription we need at this critical time.

 

Meeting our long-term intergenerational challenges is a task framed by several budgets: requiring ongoing investment in our social infrastructure and systems, which are just as important as physical infrastructure of roads, rails, bridges, dams and ports.

 

Social policy must be integrated with economic policy so that, beyond rhetoric, we achieve the fair go we yearn for as fair-minded Australians.

 

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army considers the 2019 Federal Budget to be a missed opportunity to address the most pressing drivers of disadvantage in Australia.

 

The forecast return to surplus provided the Federal Government with an avenue to lift the burden of poverty from the most vulnerable Australians who rely on New Start and the Youth Allowance.

 

The Salvation Army’s Head of Government Relations, Major Brad Halse, says ‘The Salvation Army stands with the community and social services sector in calling for an end to the quarter of a century of stagnation of New Start and the Youth Allowance.

 

“Enough time has passed for a government of any persuasion to rectify this important issue which impacts more than 600,000 Australians, at any one time.”

 

The Salvation Army’s General Manager of Policy and Advocacy, Jennifer Kirkaldy says “a fair and reasonable budget needs to consider all segments of our society.

 

We would have welcomed a far greater commitment to alleviating poverty and disadvantage in Australia, including commitments to a review of the welfare system, increased focus on mental health, financial counselling, housing and homelessness.

 

Although we welcome the Government's recognition of the need to address the pressure of rising costs of living, this budget represents a missed opportunity for Australia's most vulnerable.”

 

4 April 2019.