Message from the CEO, Dr John Falzon
As 2014 comes to a close we are glad to see what we hope is the back of Budget measures such as the proposed GP co-payment and changes to the higher education system. For those of us who strongly believe in access to a universal health care system and a level playing field when it comes to education then the failure of such measures to pass the Senate in the final sitting week of the year came as a bittersweet victory. We remain on guard to oppose the reintroduction of such Budget measures at a future date and maintain our public support for equitable health and education policies, plus the roll out of the Gonski education reforms beyond 2017 to truly address the issue of inequity in our education system at the school level.
Last week I attended a roundtable discussion on community housing hosted by the Federal Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews, in Melbourne on 5 December, 2014. The consultation was attended by representatives from leading community sector and community housing organisations and provided an opportunity to express our views on how Australia should tackle the challenges of housing affordability and the provision of social housing.
In conclusion I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I thank you for the support you have given the St Vincent de Paul Society in 2014 and I look forward to standing in solidarity with you in 2015 as we continue to help the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members of our community.
Response to the reintroduction of TPVs
Vinnies issued a statement condemning the passing of the Migration Act (the Asylum Legacy Caseload Bill) on 5 December, 2014. Our National President, Anthony Thornton said the reintroduction of Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) was a massive step backwards. Dr Falzon said the legislation further undermined Australia’s commitment to the UN Refugee Convention. “People on TPVs and Safe Have Enterprise Visas will be destined to a life of uncertainty with little hope of securing a permanent visa. But just as our struggle is enormous, so too is our hope,” Dr Falzon said.
Extent of Income Inequality report handed down
On 3 December, 2014 the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs released its report from the Inquiry into the Extent of Income Inequality in Australia. Dr Falzon’s oral evidence and Vinnies submission were referenced and quoted extensively in the majority report. The Committee acknowledged Vinnies points about growing inequality, the negative impact of the Budget on inequality, Newstart being too low, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage, and the social determinants of health. Vinnies welcomed the Committee’s recommendations that many of the Budget measures not be passed and that the tax and transfer system be considered through the lens of inequality.
Social Security measures passed
On 24 November, 2014 the Education and Employment Legislation Committee completed its Inquiry into the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Job Seeker Compliance Framework) Bill 2014. Vinnies is disappointed with the majority report’s decision to recommend that the Bill be passed. We believe the Bill incorrectly blames jobseekers for their lack of employment, and is based on the flawed logic that taking money away from the already vulnerable will somehow empower them to find work.
Long-awaited TAFE inquiry report released
In late November, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment completed its Inquiry into the role of TAFE and tabled the report, TAFE: an Australian asset. Vinnies submission was noted in the final report, with the Committee acknowledging Vinnies point that TAFEs are an important pathway to employment for people who are disadvantaged. The report also noted Vinnies view that TAFEs undertake active outreach, providing vital assistance for migrants and refugees, people from rural areas, and people experiencing housing deprivation.
People With Disability Day
On 3 December, 2014 Vinnies marked International Day of People With Disability by reiterating our belief that every Australian has the right to a place to live, a place to learn and a place to work. Vinnies is particularly concerned with providing assistance to people with disability who are experiencing homelessness, poverty or unemployment. Vinnies welcomed the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and continues to advocate for measures that address the structural causes of inequality. We advocated strongly against proposed measures in the 2014-15 Budget to move people from a higher to a lower payment.
We were also deeply saddened to hear of the death of disability rights advocate Stella Young last weekend. Her thoughtful and positive approach to advocacy is something we can all learn from.
Celebrating our volunteers
On 5 December, 2014 Vinnies marked International Volunteer Day by extending a warm thank you to our volunteers. Our volunteers are everyday people, from all walks of life and backgrounds and together their selfless actions enabled our charity to assist more than 1.8 million people last year. To get started as a Vinnies volunteer, simply click here, and follow the prompts to the volunteer information in your area.
Vinnies in the news
- The Canberra Times published the article ‘Dr John Falzon a finalist for Human Rights Medal’ on 4 December, 2014. An online version of the article was also published in the Fairfax sister publications, The Sydney Morning Herald and WA Today.
- On 5, December 2014, Vinnies Manager of Policy and Research in Victoria, Gavin Dufty gained national media coverage for the report titled Tax on, Tax off: Electricity prices before and after the repeal of the carbon tax released on 28 November, 2014.
- National Research Offficer, Rik Sutherland wrote an article on the topic of overseas aid, which was published in the Social Policy Connections newsletter.