At a time of increasing family hardship and an improved budgetary position for government, it was disappointing to see no extra financial support for struggling households in the Australian Government’s MYEFO statement, according to St Vincent de Paul Society’s National President Mark Gaetani.
‘In the leadup to Christmas, grocery bills are rising, fuel and energy costs are soaring, rents and mortgages are increasingly unaffordable. There’s been what a former Treasury economist calls a ‘massive increase’ in the income tax paid by Australians households because of the ending of the Low and Middle Income Tax Offset.
‘The MYEFO spoke of a significant budgetary improvement as well as a commitment to taking pressure off Australians by continuing to roll out responsible and targeted cost-of-living relief. However, there was no commitment to increasing JobSeeker or Commonwealth Rent Assistance, which are so important to people on low incomes.
‘A sign of the tough times is the rapid increase in the volume of calls for urgent support from St Vincent de Paul Society around Australia. We have seen a year-long rise in demand for emergency relief. Last week in Canberra-Goulburn alone, calls increased by 50 per cent. Due to rising costs, the value of assistance has increased by almost 35 per cent,’ Mr Gaetani said.
Emergency relief, partly funded by government, provides immediate financial and/or material support to people in financial crisis. It extends beyond natural disasters to cover a range of essential needs such as food, bills including rent and utility assistance.
‘The Society has urged a substantial 30 per cent increase in base grant funding for emergency relief in 2024-25 to bridge the widening gap between available resources and the growing demand for assistance,’ Mr Gaetani said.
‘The budgetary cupboard is not bare, despite all the talk about financial restraint. For example, the total household tax take has risen to $90.9 billion, up 40 per cent in the past 18 months. Then there’s the unjustifiable Stage 3 tax cuts, due to commence next year, which will cost the public purse some $254bn over 10 years.
‘There’s no doubt that more living support is desperately needed by many thousands of families, especially those living below the poverty line, and there’s no doubt that this can be afforded. St Vincent de Paul Society has observed a surge in first-time assistance seekers, indicating a growing number of individuals requiring support.’
Mr Gaetani said the Society is also pushing for more government support for the No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS), which provides access to fair and safe loans for eligible people, with no interest, fees or charges.
‘Too many low-income earners are still turning to buy now-pay later or payday borrowing schemes. NILS is available to people on low incomes, as well as women who have experienced family violence, and can be used to cover the purchase of household items, car repairs and registration, medical and dental costs, laptops and computers, housing (rent and bond) and education costs.’
The St Vincent de Paul Society in Australia consists of 45,000 members and volunteers who operate on the ground through over 1,000 groups located in local communities across the country.
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