Time to forge resilient and brighter future

With today’s announcement that the Federal Election will be held on 21 May, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) calls on all parties and candidates to remember the lessons learned during the early stages of the pandemic, when Australia reduced poverty, saved jobs and ensured people at risk of living on the streets were housed.

ACOSS urges parties and candidates to choose policies that tackle the big challenges that face this country – poverty, inequality and climate change – so we can forge a safer, fairer and more equal future.

CEO of ACOSS, Dr Cassandra Goldie, said:

“This Federal Election must be about putting those with the least at the centre of addressing the challenges we face – not just over the next three years but the next decade and beyond.

“Australia is far from finished with this pandemic and our future challenges are significant. We are facing surging housing costs, increasing poverty, persistent inequality, including gender inequality and unprecedented extreme weather events being made worse by climate change. And now, conflict in the Ukraine presents a further challenge to international peace and stability.

“We cannot afford an inactive government that cuts taxes, reduces expenditure and retreats from such an important national moment.

“Poverty and inequality in Australia are not inevitable, they are a policy choice. We know this from a precious six months in 2020, as Australia responded to the COVID Alpha wave, prioritised public health, reduced poverty through the introduction of the COVID supplement, saved over 700,000 jobs, and found safe accommodation for people sleeping on the streets.

“Yet, the recent Federal Budget was disappointing; announcing temporary fixes from the Federal Government, when what we need is permanent, long-term solutions.

“If we’re going to build a safer, brighter future, we need to ensure that everyone unable to get adequate paid work has enough to cover the basics.

“Right now, the punishingly low Jobseeker rate of $46 a day is forcing people to make heartbreaking decisions between paying their rent or buying food and medicine. For those living in flood-affected areas this stress has only been compounded. People on temporary visas face destitution.

“If we are serious about addressing the cost of living and ending poverty, parties and candidates must commit to raising income support so everyone can cover the basics. The rate of Jobseeker, Youth Allowance, and other income support payments must be at least $70 a day. They must also provide additional support to single parents, people with disability and private renters to make ends meet.

“As more and more people are being forced into homelessness and financial hardship due to soaring rent prices and a lack of social housing, we will be looking to see commitments to invest in social and affordable housing – to ease the biggest cost of living for people on low incomes.

“As we look towards the possibility of unemployment falling below 4 per cent, we must not forget that there are still 1 million people on inadequate income support payments. This includes 760,000 people unemployed long-term, 440,000 aged 45 or older, 390,000 with a disability, 120,000 caring for a child alone, and 130,000 from First Nations communities.

“We will be looking to see parties and candidates commit to introducing a Jobs and Training Guarantee to provide targeted support for people who have been without paid work for over a year.

“We call on all parties and candidates to prioritise investment into essential services and boost the incomes and wages of those in the lowest 40%, mostly women, over unaffordable tax cuts that benefit those on higher incomes, mostly men.

With the challenges Australia faces, we cannot afford a small government.

“As we continue to reel from unprecedented extreme weather events being made worse by climate change, ACOSS urges parties and candidates to put people and communities with the least at the front of climate change action, by committing to a fair and inclusive plan to rapidly cut emissions this decade and invest in community resilience, disaster preparedness, response and recovery.

“The next Government must also promise to hold a referendum on a constitutionally-entrenched Voice to Parliament and commit to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, delivering self-determination and justice for First Nations peoples.”

“We need the next federal government to create a more equal community and forge a resilient and brighter future for this and the next generation.

ACOSS is calling on the incoming Government to commit to:

  • Raise the rate of Jobseeker, Youth Allowance, and other income support payments so it is at least $70 a day and
    • establish a Single Parent Supplement recognising the additional costs of raising children as a single parent,
    • index payments to wages as well as CPI, including Family Tax Benefit, so that they maintain pace with community living standards,
    • increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 50% to ensure people on the lowest incomes, especially single parents, can better cover the cost of rent.
  • Build at least 25,000 new social housing units across the country rapidly and increase government investment in social housing stock long-term to deliver an ongoing pipeline of new stock.
  • Commit to full employment, so as many people as possible can secure paid employment for the regular paid hours they need.
  • Create a Community Sector Continuity of Service Enabling Fund to ensure continuity of service delivery, adaptation, secure jobs, prevent loss of jobs or income, and guarantee paid special leave for all workers.
  • Rescind unaffordable tax cuts for people on higher incomes and shield people with the least resources from any spending reductions.
  • Commit to reducing carbon pollution ideally by 75% by 2030 (on 2005 level) and implement a fair and inclusive plan to ensure people and communities with the least benefit from transition to clean energy and economy.

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