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Let's build a fairer Australia report card

Let's build a fairer Australia! - Report card (Sept 2023 update)

Identified policy priorityStatus at Sept 23

1. Income support, poverty and debt - Why Australia needs proper safety nets

Halve child poverty by 2030 note 1
Establish an independent advisory body on income support payments note 2
Increase the base rate of working age payments note 3
Index income support payments biannually in line with wage growth or CPI note 4, whichever is greater
Increase the earnings threshold of income support recipients note 5
Regulate to protect people from predatory financial loans and products note 6
Implement a fairer assessment process for the Disability Support Payment note 7

2. Combating homelessness, increasing affordable housing

Address the shortage of social and affordable housing note 8
Review Commonwealth Rent Assistance and increase it note 9
Fund and implement the National Low Income Energy Productivity Program note 10
Implement more private market incentives note 11
Develop national minimum standards for renters and landlords note 12
Reduce the capital gains tax discount threshold from 50% to 35%
Review the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA) note 13
Waive outstanding housing-related debts held by states and territories to the Australian Government  

3. Australia's First Nations Peoples

Prioritise Constitutional Recognition and implement a Voice to Parliament note 14
Raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 years of age to at least 14 years note 15
Increase funding of Aboriginal-controlled organisations to meet Closing the Gap targets note 16

4. Secure work

Implement the remaining Australian Government commitments to address wage suppression and undervalued jobs note 17
Review mutual obligation requirements and employment programs note 18
Develop a detailed strategy to assist the long-term unemployed note 19

5. People seeking asylum

Implement permanent protection for refugees on temporary visas (including access to family reunion – now in 5.5) note 20
Provide an adequate safety net all asylum seekers and implement a fairer process for all affected by the fast-track process note 21
Resettle all people subject to offshore processing and move people held in PNG to Australia while they await resettlement note 22
Make detention a last resort and improve the living conditions of those that must be detained for security reasons note 23
Increase the minimum annual humanitarian intake to 27,000, reform the family reunion process, increase the community support
program to 10,000 (also making it additional) and include refugees held in South East Asian countries within this increased intake note 24
Conduct a parliamentary inquiry into immigration detention both offshore and onshore starting in 2023 

Notes

1 2022 Australian Labor Party National Platform seeks to reduce the number of children living poverty (para  35). The Australian Government has committed to developing an Early Years Strategy.

2 In securing passage of the Fair Work Legislation Amendment Bill 2022, the Government announced the establishment of an independent Economic Inclusion Advisory Panel to be led by the Treasurer and Minister for Social Services and comprising experts to advise Government in income support payments. 

3 The Government announced a $40 per fortnight increase to the base rate of JobSeeker and a $92 increase for single people aged over 55 years who have been on the payment for 9 or more continuous months, to match that applying to those aged 60 and over. Eligibility for Parenting Payment (Single) has been expanded for single principal carers until their youngest child turns 14 years.

4 The Government has retained a biannual increase of income support payments in line with CPI only. There has been no change in policy.

5 The Government has announced a one-off income credit to enable people receiving aged and veterans pensions and Disability Support Pension (DSP) to earn an additional $4,000 to June 2023 without losing any of their pension. This should be ongoing and expanded to people on working age payments. The Opposition has called for an increase to the JobSeeker threshold.

6 Treasury has released an options paper on regulating Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) schemes. Further Government action will depend on the outcome of the consultation process. The Government is putting in place an initiative whereby some providers will provide a pool of funds to increase delivery of financial counselling support.

7 DSP impairment tables have been reviewed by the Department of Social Services (DSS).

8 The Australian Government has increased representation on the proposed National Housing Supply and Affordability Council, guaranteed an annual dispersal of at least $500M per year from 2024-25, agreed to index this annual funding amount against inflation from 2029-30 and will draft a special legislative instrument to enable the Treasurer and Finance Minister to increase the yearly disbursement, if needed. An additional $2BN of direct spending on social and affordable housing was also announced. As progression of the Housing and Future Fund Bill was delayed for over six months, likely resulting in delays in construction, agreement with Greens enabled the Bill to return to the Senate. In these negotiations, the Australian Government agreed to an additional $1BN in funding. 

9 The Government has announced a 15 per cent increase to CRA but no review. 

10 The Government has not supported the National Low Income Energy Productivity Program. However, $300 million is available over forward estimates for energy performance upgrades for social housing (to be matched by states and territories). A Household Energy Upgrades Fund has been established, with $1 billion provided to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to partner with banks and financial institutions to invest in household energy upgrades. $36.7 million will support the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme and Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards program to make it easier for consumers to improve their energy performance of their households. The Government is partnering with the states and territories to offer up to $3 billion of direct energy bill relief to vulnerable households and small businesses.  Further advocacy is required for private rentals (particularly rental standards), community housing providers and low-income households. 

11 The Government announced a Housing Accord with incentives for superannuation funds and institutional investment in social and affordable housing. While a replacement for the National Rental Affordability Scheme has not been identified, other market incentives have been announced. These include increasing the Government guaranteed liability cap of the National Housing and Finance Investment Corporation by $2BN to $7.5BN (thereby increasing low cost loans to community housing providers); expanding the eligibility of the Home Guarantee Scheme and Regional First Home Buyer Scheme (now includes any two eligible borrowers), and for build to rent projects - increasing the capital works tax deduction (depreciation) from 2.5% to 4 per cent per year and reducing the final withholding tax rate on eligible fund payments from managed investment trust (MIT) investments from 30 per cent to 15 per cent. 

12 First Ministers agreed that Housing Ministers will develop a proposal for National Cabinet in the second half of 2023 outlining reforms to strengthen renters’ rights across the country (28 April 2023). The Society has signed on to National Shelter Australia’s joint statement on priority areas for rental reform. These include better protections against no-cause evictions, stronger protections and fair limits on rent increases, basic energy efficiency standards and accessibility, better support for tenant self-advocacy, penalties for non-compliance and a landlord registration (or licensing) scheme, and access to free tenancy advice, assistance and advocacy

13 The Productivity Commission review of the NHHA is complete. No Government response has been issued. Consultations on development of a National Housing and Homelessness Plan have commenced (by DSS), with submissions due October 2023. In 2023-24, $1.9BN has been provided - $1.7BN for the NHHA and $187.5M for National Partnership payments including remote housing ($111.7M), housing and essential services in NT Homelands ($75M) and social impact investment for people at risk of homelessness ($0.8M)  

14 The Referendum on The Voice has been set for 14 October 2023. Yes and No materials have been distributed. A Voice information booklet and community toolkit are also available. 

15 The Standing Council of Attorneys-General has formed an Age of Criminal Responsibility Working Group. Communiques are accessible here. The ACT has introduced legislative change with staggered implementation which will eventually lift the age to 14 years. The NT has raised the age to 12 years. Victoria will raise the age to 12 by 2024 and to 14 by 2027. Tasmania has committed itself to raising the age of incarceration to 14 years while exploring how further reforms could be prioritised. No further progress has been made by other jurisdictions. The Society supports the Justice Reform Initiative.

16 A Joint Council on Closing the Gap, Coalition of Peaks and Federal and State Ministers are working together on policy. Only four of the 17 targets are on track and four are going backwards. The 2023 Budget provided an additional $1.9BN over 5 years including $150.5M for education, $193.5M for economic participation, $561.5M for health, $410.4M for housing and infrastructure. This builds on top of the Oct 2022 Budget which provided $1.2BN towards Closing the Gap. 

17 The Jobs and Skills Summit was conducted and the Secure Jobs and Better Pay Bill was passed by Parliament. Remaining policy commitments identified in the Australian Labor Party National Platform and at the Summit are to be enacted. The Government backed a wage increase for Australia’s lowest-paid workers (March 2023). The 2023 Budget included funding to cover the 15 % increase to award wages for aged care workers.

18 This has changed to amber because although there have been no changes to policy, the current Minister has used his discretionary powers more often and more sympathetically to reduce the numbers in detention by 300 from 1,400 in May 2022 to 1,100 in May 2023. 

19 The Government has made an initial increase for 2023-24 to 20,000 which was the Society’s short term ask and the ALP has renewed its commitment to the 27,000 figure in its 2023 National Platform but it has no apparent plan to reform family reunion So, both policy and implementation are amber at the moment. 

20 The major Resolution of Status Visa implementation is in progress with a nominated completion date of February 2024 but family reunion processes still need to be reformed. The reform issue is discussed in point 5.5, so we have declared this item green. 

21 No additional funding was announced in the 2023 Budget for the Status Resolution Support Service and the Government has not yet taken any substantial action to improve the situation. The Government has also chosen not to scrap the fast-track process, with thousands of people seeking asylum still suffering under this process. However, the Government has announced an additional $89.5 million over 5 years from 2022- 23 to abolish the AAT and reform the Commonwealth administrative review system. $4M in 2023-24 has been committed to continue the operations of the Immigration Assessment Authority (IAA), with its future to be considered pending the establishment of a new federal administrative review body, which may deliver fairer outcomes. But overall, the continued ignoring of the ALP National Platform the Government took to the election has prompted us to set our assessment of implementation as red.   

22 Although the ALP National Platform would suggest that the Society’s ask is within its scope, the Government has made clear that it now no longer considers the people remaining in PNG as its responsibility – a position which we consider is inconsistent with the Platform. Therefore, the policy is listed as amber. In terms of implementation, the Government has moved all but 2 people from Nauru so we list their implementation as amber as well.    

23 This has changed to amber because although there have been no changes to policy, the current Minister has used his discretionary powers more often and more sympathetically to reduce the numbers in detention by 300 from 1,400 in May 2022 to 1,100 in May 2023. 

24 The Government has made an initial increase for 2023-24 to 20,000 which was the Society’s short term ask and the ALP has renewed its commitment to the 27,000 figure in its 2023 National Platform but it has no apparent plan to reform family reunion So, both policy and implementation are amber at the moment.