Important initiatives but short on heart

Posted in News

The 2018 federal budget was announced on Tuesday 8 May. Stuart McMillan (President, Uniting Church in Australia) and Claerwen Little (National Director, UnitingCare Australia) have weighed in on matters related to Australian aid, initiatives for First Peoples, chaplaincy, aged care, and more.

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Stuart McMillan has welcomed a number of important initiatives for First Australians in the 2018 federal budget.

Stuart says he was cheered by confirmation of a $550 million Federal commitment to a new five-year agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing with the Northern Territory Government.

“The housing needs of First Peoples have been scandalously neglected for so long,” he says.

"The Government has promised to ensure Aboriginal community control will be at the heart of this investment, from decision-making to employment and business procurement. If it does this, it will be an excellent outcome.”

The budget also included an extension of Medicare funding for dialysis services in rural and remote regions, as well as confirmation that Purple House Western Desert Dialysis in Alice Springs will receive $23 million in funding over the next few years.

“This is wonderful news and something which the Uniting Church has campaigned for over many years,” says Stuart.   

Despite these positive points, Stuart has expressed disappointment that the Government has not chosen to direct more of its $25.9 billion revenue windfall to those most in need.

“Treasurer Morrison was blessed to receive manna from heaven in the form of extra revenue. Despite this providence, the Government has continued its freeze on foreign aid and there is no increase to Newstart.

“We know that this only entrenches poverty at home and abroad,” Stuart says.

The aid freeze means that development partners will miss out on more than $140 million over the next four years. If this trend continues Australian aid will only make up 19 cents in every $100 of gross national income by 2021-22 nowhere near the United Nations’ official development assistance (ODA) target of 0.7%.

“I’m sure there are many Australians who would happily set aside their tax cuts of around $10 a week if they knew that there was a safety net for the most vulnerable people in their community and our region,” says Stuart.

He also expressed concerns about the Government’s diminishing commitment to developing clean energy – a key factor to addressing climate change.

However, the funding commitment of $3.6 million towards the establishment of an Anti-Slavery Unit in the Department of Home Affairs was warmly welcomed.

“The funding announced seeks to strengthen Australia’s overall ability to combat modern slavery, including strengthening criminal justice outcomes and enhancing victim support – which are both needed,” Stuart explains.

“Faith and business leaders have campaigned strongly for a Modern Slavery Act for several years now and we look forward to its implementation.

“Getting slavery out of our supply chains and stopping slavery-like conditions in Australia are justice issues that directly impact our Pacific Island Uniting Church members and our regional church partners.”

Stuart also welcomed the Government’s $247 million commitment to the National Schools Chaplaincy Program over four years.

UnitingCare Australia National Director Claerwen Little welcomed the Government’s commitment to older Australians and their care, particularly the extra 14,000 home-care packages.

“These go some way to relieving the pain for those 105,000 people still waiting for support,” says Claerwen.

“There is still much more to be done for our ageing population to ensure a viable, sustainable aged care system for the future.”

Claerwen also says she was deeply disturbed to find no increase in the Newstart Allowance and Youth Allowance, both of which she said were widely acknowledged to be “grossly inadequate”.

Read UnitingCare Australia’s Budget 2018 Media Release here.


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