Budget measures threaten to drive people deeper into poverty

The St Vincent de Paul Society argued that the 2014–2015 Budget must be based on values. One such value is pragmatism: how much can Australia afford to spend, and how can we make sure revenue and expenditure are sustainable? We must also, however, recognise the universal human rights that all people share in Australia, and we must believe that government has a responsibility to help people develop their strengths and their potential. We must look to long-term programs to empower our communities, rather than short-term patches, and the Budget must be firmly rooted in evidence.

Based on these values, the Society has identified several key areas that the Budget should have addressed. First, revenue needs to be increased. This can easily be effected by closing several of the tax loopholes that wealthy Australians are currently able to access. Second, the Budget must address the urgent issue of housing in Australia. This includes homelessness, high rents, and totally inadequate housing in detention centres of asylum seekers under Australia’s jurisdiction. Thirdly, the government’s provision of income support must be better targeted so that it goes where it is needed. This relates to better means-testing of pensions (as recommended by the Henry Tax Review), as well as increasing support to those currently trying to get back into the workforce, and those who are banned from working (asylum seekers). It also means stopping the harmful policy of compulsory income management.

The Budget, released in May 2014, did not address any of these issues. Since then, the Society has written submissions calling on government not to implement harsh and punitive policies that will hurt the most in need (see below). Vinnies is calling on the Federal Government to review measures that impact on low income families, young people and pensioners.

Human rights committee finding welcomed

In late September 2014 the Society welcomed the findings of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights report into the Social Security (Budget Measures) Bills. The Committee, comprising Liberal, National Party and Labor Senators found that the proposed six month waiting period for Newstart was incompatible with human rights.

The Greens and the Palmer United Party also outlined their intention to block some of most controversial Budget proposals, which included the indexation of the aged pension and family payments, and raising the working age to 70. Therefore when the Government introduced its Social Security Legislation into the 44th Parliament on 2 October, 2014 the proposals were vastly scaled back from those originally proposed in the Budget. The response to the Budget by MPs, Senators and ordinary Australians has also been heartening for the Society to witness, with many people expressing their opposition to measures in the Budget that place an unfair burden on the most disadvantaged people in our community.

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