Federal Election 2019: What is contest country needs?

In response to the announcement of the Federal Election for May 18, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has called on both major parties to focus on improving the wellbeing of the community, particularly people who are struggling on lower incomes, so that everyone in Australia can live a fulfilling life.

CEO of ACOSS, Dr Cassandra Goldie, said:

“This Federal Election should be a contest of ideas to strengthen communities, grow inclusively and secure our collective future. We urge Party leaders to appeal to the best in us during the campaign and advance a vision for the future which unites, rather than divides us.

“We ask all candidates to speak respectfully to and about those in our communities who are currently out of paid work during the campaign. Words matter and must be chosen carefully.

“We were only minutes into the official election campaign period this morning when Mr Morrison took a thinly veiled shot at people on Newstart and others who may be struggling when he said if re-elected, his Government would ‘back in’ those contributing, over those ‘taking’.

“It’s extremely disappointing that the Prime Minister has framed his election agenda in such a divisive way and we urge him to rethink this framing.

“We need leaders who are committed to building communities not dividing them.

“In the aftermath of a budget that would deliver an extra $200 per week for someone with an income of $200,000 per year, and no ongoing increase for people on the lowest incomes in this country, this election must be about shifting priorities to ensure that all of us are supported, particularly when we’re going through tough times. People sometimes need support and we should show empathy and kindness, both in our language and in our policy priorities.

“I have just returned from Cairns where local services talked of a major spike in suicidal ideation and depression amongst people struggling outside of the labour market, in desperate financial circumstances. They may not be the loudest lobbyists, nor able to make political donations, but the experiences of people on the lowest incomes should be front and centre in this election.

“After 25 years without an increase to Newstart and related allowances, it’s not good enough for the Government to tell people struggling to find paid work that they need to ‘have a go’. It’s also not good enough for people in desperate circumstances to be told by the Labor Party that they have to wait for a review before they get any financial relief. The incoming Government needs to step up and raise Newstart to make our system stronger and give people the best chance of finding suitable paid work.

“Our next Parliament must prioritise securing the essential services that all of us rely on, so that no one is left behind.”

ACOSS is calling on the incoming Government to commit to:

  • Raise the rate of Newstart, Youth Allowance and related payments by a minimum of $75 per week
  • Commit to full employment, so as many people as possible can secure paid employment for the regular paid hours they need
  • Develop a new National Housing and Homelessness Strategy with targets to increase affordable housing for low-income households and reduce homelessness
  • Set emission reduction targets of zero net emissions before 2050 and at least 45% by 2030
  • Invest in health promotion and prevention programs and make dental care affordable for all

ACOSS will be holding a Federal Election Breakfast next Monday morning which will hear from Minister for Families and Social Services Paul Fletcher MP and Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen in the first major event following the announcement of the Federal Election.

Their speeches will be followed by Q&A, and a panel discussion with CEDA CEO Melinda Cilento, National Secretary of United Voice Jo-anne Schofield, and ACOSS’s Dr Cassandra Goldie, facilitated by SMH’s Jessica Irvine.

Federal Election Breakfast details

WHERE: The Aerial UTS Function Centre, Building 10, Level 7/235 Jones St, Ultimo NSW

WHEN: 8am-10am Monday

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