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‘People deserve a fair go’



Funding cuts: Federal government Budget cuts will impact on successful Caritas programs like this one in Sudan.

CARITAS Australia acting chief executive officer and international programs manager Jamie Davies as a trained economist understands the need for “fiscal restraint” driving the Federal Budget.

But she believes the cutting of nearly $8 billion from Australia’s foreign aid funding in the next five years is a “disproportionate burden”.

“Foreign aid cuts represent about 20 per cent of savings in the government’s forward estimates,” she said.

“Yet all people deserve a fair go.

“It shouldn’t matter where they live for this to happen – whether it’s Australia, Africa or wherever.

“These cuts will impact on successful Caritas programs such as one in Malawi which is providing food to more than 16,000 of the poorest families there.”

Ms Davies has added her voice to a growing number of leaders of Catholic health, education and welfare agencies criticising measures announced in the budget.

Heads of the St Vincent de Paul Society, Catholic Health Australia and the National Catholic Education Commission criticised budget measures soon after Treasurer Joe Hockey released details on the night of Tuesday May 13.

Queensland Catholic Education Commission executive director Mike Byrne and Catholic Religious Australia president Sisters of Charity Sister Annette Cunliffe have commented.

Mr Byrne said the new measures announced in the budget could force an increase in school fees.

He said the Catholic sector had serious concerns about the Federal Government’s decision to use the Consumer Price Index as the basis for school funding indexation after 2017.

“In the last decade the CPI has averaged less than 3 per cent,” he said.

“This contrasts with Commonwealth funding increases, which reflect real costs in schools, of around 5.8 per cent.

 “Limiting the rate of school funding increases to the CPI will likely mean funding would not keep up with school costs.

 “School funding must keep up with real school costs, including rising teacher salaries, access to new technologies that support learning and so on.

 “Using CPI after 2017 is likely to force an increase in school fees and put pressure on the needs-based funding approach of Catholic education.”

Sr Cunliffe said she was “saddened by the focus of the budget on the alleged need to fix the economy at the expense of people in Australia and beyond who are in real need”.

“Many measures that affect the less well-off are also permanent, such as the increase in fuel excise over time while measures targeting those in higher incomes are expected to be temporary,” she said.

The three leaders spoke of some positive provisions in the budget.

Ms Davies said she was “heartened” by the Federal Government’s announcement of increased provisions for responses to natural disasters.

“The Foreign Minister (Julie Bishop) has also spoken of investing more in the welfare of women and girls but we don’t know yet what this means in dollar terms,” she said.

 Mr Byrne said the Catholic sector “particularly welcomed” the $6.8 million allocated to support boarding schools, which have large numbers of Indigenous students from remote areas.

 “I also welcome the Government’s commitment to continue funding for the National School Chaplaincy Program until December 2018,” he said.

Sr Cunliffe said positive provisions in the budget included increased infrastructure and medical research funding.

“However on balance this budget seems to be lacking in compassion and fairness,” she said.





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