THE 2019 Federal Budget continues to ignore Australia’s most disadvantaged citizens, St Vincent de Paul Society national president Claire Victory said.
Ms Victory said the Budget, delivered by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, failed to address two dominant drivers of poverty and disadvantage in Australia – the soaring costs of basic housing and below-poverty-level income support payments.
“We are disappointed this Budget neglects the urgent need for a comprehensive and long-term strategy that will tackle the ballooning problems of homelessness and housing for low-income earners, including a much needed increased investment in social housing,” Ms Victory said.
“Although homelessness in Australia continues to rise, the Budget offers no solution to putting a roof over the head of the more than 116,000 people experiencing homelessness and those on low incomes suffering severe rental stress.
“The treasurer says a strong economy is the key to delivering better government services.
“Yet instead of investing in essential social security payments, social housing, and community services, this Budget squanders an opportunity to balance the benefits of lifting household income delivered through tax cuts against giving a hand up to our most disadvantaged citizens who continue to be excluded from participation in the life of their community due to lack of money in their pockets.”
Ms Victory said the continuing refusal to address the low level of support for people on Newstart was “harsh”.
Recipients of Newstart will not receive an increase in financial benefits – including energy assistance packages for singles and couples
“The Government’s ‘commitment to fairness’ does not deliver one cent of the one-off energy assistance cash payment to Newstart recipients,” Ms Victory said.
“This is a poor reflection of Australians’ commitment to giving everyone ‘a fair-go’.
“The Society will continue to offer help and hope to these families and individuals,” Ms Victory said.
Catholic Social Services chief executive officer Jesuit Father Frank Brennan said there were few positives to come from what he called an “election budget”.
“Many Australians will be pleased because there’s a surplus, tax cuts and spending on infrastructure,” Fr Brennan said.
“But for those who we’re privileged to serve we have to say they haven’t been put first and haven’t even been put on the table in many of these considerations.”
Fr Brennan was concerned for the lack of funding attributed to one of Australia’s darkest and least discussed problems.
“I think we all need to admit that the allocation of a mere $5m over four years to address the present endemic situation of Aboriginal youth suicide is just lamentable,” he said.
Fr Brennan said that there was some good news that came from the Budget.
“We’re delighted to see that the funding for the disability Royal Commission will be full and adequate at $500 million,” he said.
“And the government is to provide $328 million of four years on programs to reduce domestic and family violence.
“We’re also very pleased to see that there will be a modest payment of $14 million for three social impact investment trials.”
The National Catholic Education Commission welcomed the Government’s formal budget commitment to better target funding for Australia’s low-fee schools.
NCEC executive director Jacinta Collins acknowledged Education Minister Dan Tehan’s focus on low-fee schools, which educated so many disadvantaged students.
“Now that the government’s funding package is locked into the Budget, the NCEC looks forward to seeing the detail of Labor’s plans for Catholic schools,” Ms Collins said.
“As always at election time, the NCEC will let families know what the parties are offering Catholic schools, so parents can make informed decisions when they vote.”
Ms Collins said Catholic schools were focused on addressing students’ future needs, particularly in early childhood education.
“Early childhood education is so important and Catholic schools are well placed to meet this demand,” Ms Collins said.
“We are building preschools next to primary schools, which helps families and puts our pre-schoolers at the heart of our school communities.”
Ms Collins said the NCEC would continue to seek more funding and resources to improve education for its 765,000 students, particularly disadvantaged students.
“That motivates everything we do,” Ms Collins said.
“Without government funding, Catholic schools would only be affordable to wealthy families and hundreds of thousands of students would be forced onto the government school system, which is already stretched.”