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Homelessness, Indigenous Affairs And Dementia Groups React To The Federal Budget

Quiet calm
Quiet calm

The Budget handed down by Treasurer Scott Morrison on Tuesday was pretty good, right?

Firm but fair, putting us back on the road to surplus, a tiny -- let's be honest, minuscule -- tax break there for some wage earners, but no wholesale dumping of programs.

No razor gang has taken to Centrelink payments, and while families didn't get as many perks as would be expected in the lead-up to an election, at least there weren't any major losers.

But while Morrison et al are basking in the cool light of a bland budget, MPs, advocates and lobbyists are fuming that some of the nation's greatest and most complex social problems have been left out in the cold.


Advocacy group Homelessness Australia said on-the-ground services would be at crisis point, with no new funding to take the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, past June 2017.

Young people's homelessness advocate Michael Coffey said the $115 million program supported 80,000 clients a year, and there was no replacement program due to pick up the service from 2017.

"We have to work towards scaling up our response to homelessness in Australia -- reducing an already stretched service system with no investment in affordable housing -- is just not good enough," Coffey said.

"Services are at breaking point and communities across Australia will continue to see more and more people turned away from services and on the streets."

St Vincent de Paul Society National chief executive John Falzon echoed the sentiment, saying a good budget would not "leave people who are unemployed or insecurely employed to wage a daily battle for survival from below the poverty line".

Indigenous Australians

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs were not mentioned in federal treasurer Scott Morrison's budget speech.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said this lack of recognition showed the rhetoric of 'Closing The Gap' in healthcare and life expectancy for Indigenous Australians had not prompted any additional funding on top of previously announced measures.

A previously announced $40 million will go towards cultural preservation and promotion, but advocacy groups want a focus on health and justice.

"Despite the ongoing crisis in incarceration rates, child removal rates and the overall slow progress towards closing the gap in health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the Turnbull Government has failed in its first opportunity to restore the cuts made by the Abbott Government in the 2014 Federal Budget to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs funding," Szoke said.

"It appears that the Prime Minister’s promise in his Closing the Gap speech in February of a closer relationship between government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies and leaders remains a rhetorical flourish rather than a policy and resource commitment."

The Federal Government had previously announced $40 million to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies for cultural preservation and promotion over the next four years.

Ageing Australia

As the Baby Boomers reach old age, Alzheimer's Australia predicts an increase in need for dementia services, with a predicted 7,400 new cases each week by 2050.

Yet national chief executive Carol Bennett said the Federal Budget lacked any new policies that would significantly improve the lives of the more than 353,000 Australian's living with dementia.

"At a time when dementia is the second leading cause of death and is projected to affect almost a million people by 2050 with significant economic and social costs to Australia, we need national investment to drive a co-ordinated approach from prevention through to cure," Bennett said.

International aid

Australia's contribution to international aid has stayed on a course of steady cuts, set into motion by Joe Hockey last year, despite war, famine and the European migration crisis prompting a greater need than ever.

CARE Australia chief executive Julia Newton-Howes said the decision to maintain a $224 million cut to the aid budget was deeply disappointing.

Aid is delivered in a regional Syrian town as the crisis continues, but Australia's contribution to global aid is reducing.

“Australia has turned its back on the world’s poor once again,” Newton-Howes said.

“The Government’s refusal to reverse the final scheduled cut to the aid budget means Australia will become the least generous we've ever been with the lowest ratio of aid to the size of our economy ever.

“It’s worth remembering that international aid funding makes up less than 1 percent of the total national budget."

World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello said Australia's lack of funding directly put lives at risk.

"This latest round of cuts puts lives and futures at risk as well as regional and global security and prosperity -- it's both unwise and unworthy of our nation," Costello said.

Unicef pointed out Australian aid equated to 23 cents in every $100 of gross national income and chief executive Adrian Graham said poverty internationally, but also in Australia, was being ignored.

“Slashing international aid and reducing social services for Australian families has brought support for the most disadvantaged children to an all-time low. Cutting funding from the poorest and most marginalised children is not effective, ethical or fair. It’s time to rebuild, we can do better,” Graham said.

Caritas Australia chief executive Paul O’Callaghan echoed the sentiment, saying: "Australia has given up its shared leadership role in combating poverty”.

Shifting workforce

Australia’s manufacture industry is at crisis point with the last remaining large-scale automotive makers set to close in 2017, along with more than 200,000 jobs.

The treasurer’s budget speech, however, failed to mention additional plans to support workers in their transition from manufacture to other industries.

Instead the budget focused on high-tech defence jobs and small business incentives.

Morrison also announced a new initiative to help more than 100,000 vulnerable young people into jobs with a national work experience program.

That’s no reassurance to South Australia and Victoria where manufacturing bases are disappearing, leaving specifically skilled middle-aged workers unemployed.

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