A budget of few blessings

Posted in News

Uniting Church in Australia President Stuart McMillan says that, on balance, there is little to rejoice about in the 2017-18 Federal Budget.

“A two-year freeze on foreign aid, punitive new welfare measures, including drug and alcohol testing for the unemployed, and the extension of income management just make life harder for the poor and most vulnerable,” he says.

“In all this week’s commentary about winners and losers, we should remember that the poor are the ones who lose out most when governments neglect their needs. They are the ones who should be our focus.”

UnitingCare Australia National Director Claerwen Little also laments punitive measures targeting the unemployed and welfare recipients.

“The very worst elements of this Budget impose harsh compliance measures on jobseekers for no apparent benefit to their employment prospects. The language of three strikes and demerits in the Government’s proposed welfare reform effectively make it a crime to be unemployed.”

She says the needs of Australia’s young people had been left out of the 2017 Budget.

“Greater costs for higher education and a lack of support for our most vulnerable young people are a heavy burden for those who hold the future of our nation in their hands.”

UnitingWorld National Director Rob Floyd has also expressed his disappointment and concern with the Budget, particularly the confirmation of a freeze to foreign aid funding.

“The Australian aid sector had called for an increase of around $1.6 billion in the 2017 Budget as a step toward returning our aid budget towards levels in accord with our international obligations. The aid freeze announced by the Government actually means Australia will spend $303 million less on foreign aid over the next four years,” Rob explains.

“The people who suffer the most here are the millions of people who rely on Australian aid in our region. I’m afraid churches, aid agencies and charities will have to work even harder to close this huge gap that the Government has left.”

On a more positive note, Stuart warmly welcomes the Federal Government’s plan to raise the Medicare Levy to ensure full funding of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

“I applaud the Government’s decision to raise taxes to make life better for Australians with a disability,” he says. “I hope the Government will consider further tax increases in the future to cover NDIS costs if required – or indeed for other compassionate purposes.”

Claerwen agrees: “The commitment to fund the NDIS by an increase in the Medicare levy is a significant measure and a landmark worthy of celebrating. The full funding of the NDIS from 2020 will afford greater dignity and independence to Australians with permanent and significant disability.”

Stuart also welcomed confirmation in the Budget of a Commonwealth Redress Scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse from July 2018.

“Our hope is that this will become the national scheme recommended by the Royal Commission,” he says.

UnitingCare Australia has released a media release in response to the 2017-18 Federal Budget – some of the quotes and concerns have been outlined in the above article, but other topics have not been addressed. To read the full statement or find out more, please click here.

Quotes from Stuart McMillan and Rob Floyd were originally published in the Assembly article/media release here.

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