ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: Federal Budget misses key support measures

7 October 2020

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) said today that the Federal Budget was a missed opportunity to boost the Canberra economy and protect those on low incomes in the ACT.

ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell said: “The nearly 23,000 Canberrans currently receiving JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and related payments will be devastated to hear that the Federal Budget has failed to deliver a permanent, adequate increase to income support.

“The recent cut to the Coronavirus Supplement by $300 per fortnight already means that many Canberrans are unable to afford the basics.

“Yet, analysis by Deloitte Access Economics has shown that a permanent increase to income support would provide a much-needed boost to domestic consumption and local employment as well as a decent safety net for those facing unemployment.

“Many Canberrans now face an uncertain future when JobSeeker returns to its pre-COVID levels of $40 a day, pushing thousands more into poverty. Once again, we will see families forced to choose between putting three meals on the table, paying rent or buying new clothes for their children.

Yesterday’s Budget saw significant tax cuts and tax concessions for business and individuals.

“People without paid work will see no benefit from yesterday’s announced tax cuts, with the largest amounts going to people on high incomes.

“The country’s leading economists have been telling the Government that an adequate JobSeeker rate is far more effective than income tax cuts in generating the economic stimulus we need to rebuild the economy.

“People on high incomes can choose to save. However, the Federal Government needs to put money into the hands of people on low incomes because history shows they will immediately spend on essentials, boosting business recovery.

“It is also a cruel Budget for people on temporary visas who continue to be excluded from JobSeeker and JobKeeper. Without the ACT Government’s Jobs for Canberrans scheme, many Canberrans on temporary visas would be left with no income,” Dr Campbell said.

ACTCOSS said that the Budget has provided a glimmer of hope on jobs for young people in a really tough year.

Dr Campbell continued: “While we welcome the wage subsidy for under 35s who are badly impacted in this recession, the Budget leaves out JobSeekers who are over 35 and JobSeekers with disability.

“We’re calling for the wage subsidy for young people to be urgently extended to people of all ages who have been unemployed for a year or longer.”

Dr Campbell said that housing was the biggest living cost for Canberra’s low-income households. According to ACTCOSS’s ACT Cost of Living Report, the lowest income households in the ACT spend 35% of their income on keeping a roof over their heads, meaning they are experiencing rental stress.

Dr Campbell said: “Addressing housing affordability is the responsibility of both the federal and ACT governments.

“The Federal Government has missed an opportunity to provide direct assistance for social housing. For every $100 million invested in social housing, the economy is boosted by $130 million. Investment in social housing is a twin boost – it supports jobs and it enables people on low incomes to access affordable housing.

“Over the past four years, investment in social housing has failed to keep up with population growth and community need in the ACT. Since 2016, the number of social housing dwellings per 100 households has decreased by 4%. There are currently over 2,500 people on the ACT social housing waiting list, with an average waiting time of up to 3.5 years.

“We also share the ACT Government’s deep frustration that the Federal Government has not waived the ACT’s historic housing debt as it has done for Tasmanians,” Dr Campbell said.

The Federal Government has also announced a modest increase in the Commonwealth’s aged care packages, although the 23,000 home care packages promised meets less than a quarter of the national backlog of over 100,000 places.

“This is a missed opportunity to invest in the caring sector. Investment in the community sector leads immediately to job creation and delivers services to hundreds of thousands of Australians who desperately need quality aged care, childcare, disability and other social supports,” said Dr Campbell.

The Government also announced two small stimulus payments of $250 each for Canberrans receiving the Disability Support Pension, the Aged Pension, Carer and Family Payments, Veterans and holders of the Pensioner Concession Card.

“While we welcome additional funding for the NDIS, we join disability representative organisations in expressing concern about the Government’s proposed reforms including the Independent Assessment regime,” Dr Campbell concluded.  

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.

For more information or comment, please contact
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617 or 02 6202 7200.