JOINT STATEMENT: Strengthen the social safety net. Stop tearing it apart.
29 August 2017
As leaders from the community and health sectors, we unite to condemn repeated attacks by the federal government on people living in poverty.
We stand together to say enough is enough. Social security is a right.
We condemn this government’s latest attempts to dismantle Australia’s social safety net by cutting income support payments for people already living below the poverty line.
We are a wealthy country and we should take pride in treating each other with dignity. We should take pride in maintaining and strengthening our social safety net for everyone when they need it most.
The social safety net is there to support us if we lose our job, get sick, undertake study, care for children or someone else, have a disability, or need support when we get older.
It is an entitlement, not a crime, to receive an income support payment in Australia.
This government must stop treating people on low incomes as though they are doing something wrong or breaking the law, just because they are receiving a payment.
We see it every day when we meet families who cannot afford to put a roof over their heads, and single parents who skip a meal so their children can attend a school excursion. We see it with people locked out of paid work who cannot afford three meals a day, and with people living in darkness because the cost of energy has become luxury.
Three million people already live below the poverty line in Australia, of whom 731,000 are children.
Yet there is legislation before parliament which aims to further cut income support payments, including for people studying or training, people who are bereaved, people who are unemployed, single parents, people with a disability, and older people who have migrated to Australia.
There is also legislation before parliament to cut the $38-per-day unemployment payment, even though it is well below the poverty line.
We call on parliament to stop cutting the incomes of people who have the least, and to oppose legislation that demonises the very people our safety net is designed to support.
We call on government to focus on strengthening our social safety net to reduce poverty and inequality in Australia. We can begin by lifting allowance payments by at least $55 per week to give people in need a helping hand, rather than pushing them over.
Let’s help people out of poverty, not send more people under.
The nine un-legislated cuts to income support payments currently before parliament include:
- Removing deemed claim provisions for people accessing income support, effectively cutting payments for people experiencing disadvantage
- Doubling the Liquid Assets Waiting Period making some people wait 6 months before accessing an income support payment, affecting 13,800 people
- Cutting the Bereavement Allowance by $1,300
- Tightening compliance rules for people seeking work, which will cut social security payments for 83,000 people
- Cutting the Energy Supplement, affecting 1.7 million people receiving income support payments
- Cutting the Pensioner Education Supplement affecting 39,700 people, including single parents, Disability Support Pensioners and Carers
- Cutting the Education Entry Payment, affecting 56,100 people
- Denying some migrants a pension for up to 15 years, affecting 2,300 people
- Cutting the GST Supplement for pensioners who spend more than six weeks overseas
Measures that demonise people receiving income support payments include:
- Drug testing 5,000 people who are unemployed
- Placing people who return a positive drug test under income management
- Denying people with addiction exemptions from mutual obligation
- Forcing single parents to have a third party verify they are single
- Sending threatening letters and text messages from Centrelink and the Australian Federal Police demanding people update their details
- Continuation of Robodebt
- Continuing blanket income management for people living in remote areas
- Continuation of Work for the Dole and the Community Development Program despite very poor outcomes
Signatories to the Joint Statement:
- Australian Council of Social Service
- ACT Council of Social Service
- Anglicare Australia
- Australian Association of Social Workers
- Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
- Australian Youth Affairs Coalition
- Baptist Care Australia
- Brotherhood of St Laurence
- Carers Australia
- Catholic Social Services Australia
- Children and Young People with Disability Australia
- Community Mental Health Australia
- Council to Homeless Persons
- Disability Advocacy Network Australia Ltd
- Disabled People’s Organisations Australia
- Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia
- Financial Counselling Australia
- First Peoples Disability Network
- Homelessness Australia
- Indian (Sub-Cont) Crisis and Support Agency
- Mission Australia
- National Association of Community Legal Centres
- National Council of Single Mothers & their Children Inc
- National Ethnic Disability Alliance
- National Shelter
- Newman Women’s Shelter
- NSW Council of Social Service
- People with Disability Australia
- Queensland Council of Social Service
- SA Council of Social Service
- St Vincent de Paul Society
- Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, Uniting Church in Australia
- Volunteering Australia
- WA Council of Social Service
- Welfare Rights Centre NSW
- Women with Disabilities Australia
- Associate Prof Beth Goldblatt, University of Technology Sydney