Thursday, 8 October 2020

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison continues his personal war on the poor and vulnerable

"This is a deeply ideological budget. It rewards the Morrison government's friends, and punishes perceived enemies." 

[Journalist and Reseacher Ben Eltham on Twitter, 7 October 2020]


Council to Homeless Personsmedia release, 6 October 2020:

Federal Budget reveals millions to be cut from vital homelessness services (Homelessness Australia)

Tonight’s Federal Budget has failed to include the stimulus investment in social housing urgently needed to respond to growing homelessness and includes a $41.3 million cut to homelessness services from July 2021.

Homelessness Australia Chair, Jenny Smith says, “Tonight’s budget is devastating. In a year with huge increases in unemployment creating a surge in rental stress and homelessness, the Federal Government has chosen to slash homelessness funding.

The Treasurer had a choice to make, and he has chosen homelessness for tens of thousands of Australian families. Without increases in social housing and with even less resources for homelessness services, many families will become stuck in homelessness for a long time.

The Government has ignored advice from all corners: from top economists, property industry and community sector leaders, as well as popular support from the community; all calling for the Government to invest in social housing to both create thousands of new jobs each year and to deliver enormous social good.

The failure to invest in social housing growth in the 2020 Budget follows a 10 per cent cut to housing and homelessness funding over the three years from 2017-18 to 2020-21, most of which has been cut from remote Indigenous housing.

The 2020 Budget includes a one-off payment to Queensland for remote Indigenous housing. It also includes funding for remote housing in NT, but even with these short term funds, annual funding for housing in remote Indigenous communities is $237.2, less than half the amount of $526.6 spent in 2017-18.

Not only has the Budget ignored the opportunity to build social housing as economic stimulus, it has revealed plans to slash a further $41.3 million from vital homelessness support in July. Despite soaring demand, tonight’s budget has put services in an impossible situation.

Homelessness services are already under enormous strain. Last year alone, services had to turn away 253 people every day because not enough housing or support was available, and cuts to services will increase the number of people in need who are turned away.

The economic ramifications of this pandemic will continue well past 2020. Slashing $41 million in homelessness support in July is senseless and cruel,” says Jenny Smith.


Mission Australia, media release, 6 October 2020:

  • Shocking failure to address rising homelessness or the serious shortage of social homes, particularly given COVID-19 impacts.

  • Baffling silence on permanent increase to income support.

  • Welcome investment in youth employment, yet more must be done to better support disadvantaged young people seeking work.

  • Homelessness and housing

Mission Australia CEO James Toomey warned that the Commonwealth Government’s ongoing lack of investment in new social homes and absence of a national plan to end homelessness will push more people into homelessness.

"It is shocking that the Federal Budget hasn’t done enough to commit to long-term investment to address the serious shortage of social homes in Australia."

Ensuring everyone has a safe and secure place to call home is a national responsibility that was ignored in this year’s Federal Budget.

Prioritising ending homelessness in Australia still isn’t being taken seriously at a national level.

This year has been incredibly challenging for Australia’s most vulnerable people, including people experiencing homelessness and poverty. We are deeply concerned that high levels of unemployment, the reduction in the COVID Supplement rate and the huge debts in rent deferrals that some people are accruing will lead to a huge spike in housing insecurity and homelessness.

"With this lack of commitment, there is a looming risk that even more people will be pushed into homelessness and unsafe living situations."

Investing in 30,000 social homes within the next four years is an obvious solution that will not only help to end homelessness in Australia but will also create vital jobs in the construction industry.

Despite a significant investment in infrastructure in this year’s Federal Budget to help create jobs, we are deeply disappointed the essential social infrastructure of social housing has been ignored.

Particularly given 2020’s challenges, we cannot fathom why Australia still doesn’t have a national plan to end homelessness.

At a time when homelessness is likely to increase, the Government has again deserted the needs of at least 116,000 people who are homeless and the thousands who are teetering on the edge of homelessness in severe rental stress during the recession.

Ensuring everyone has a safe and secure place to call home is a national responsibility and was ignored in this year’s Federal Budget.

Tackling the challenges of drought, bushfires, flood and a pandemic has distilled in our nation’s hearts and minds just how crucial a safe and secure home is for people to live, work, access education and stay well.

We urgently need more social homes to help end homelessness in Australia. We cannot wait another year for these vital investments in the social homes that Australia profoundly needs.”

Adequacy of income support

Mission Australia CEO James Toomey said: “While forewarned, we are baffled there was no indication about the future of income support in a Federal Budget in which the Treasurer acknowledged how these payments had supported the economy.

We welcome the two cash payments that were announced by the Government for aged, carer, family and disability welfare recipients, but this is not nearly enough to address the ongoing insecurity experienced by people relying on income support payments.

"We are left disappointed that the increasing number of people on JobSeeker have been ignored in the Federal Budget."

The doubling of income support for people facing unemployment, from Newstart to the JobSeeker Payment with COVID Supplement, made an enormous difference to many Australians during the pandemic, including many that we serve at Mission Australia.

With the JobSeeker COVID supplement recently reduced and no certainty beyond December yet provided, Mission Australia is one of many voices calling on the Government to secure a permanent floor to income support to keep people out of poverty and homelessness.

Inadequate income support is incredibly distressing for the people we serve at Mission Australia. Without enough to cover the basics, they can be forced to make difficult decisions such as going without adequate food, missing out on life saving medicine, or being unable to afford transport to a job interview. Additionally, many can be pushed into stressful and unsafe living conditions as it’s all they can afford. All of this, coupled with the stressors of the pandemic, can enormously impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Turning back to $40 a day from 2021 would be a disaster for so many people around Australia. It is too low, and would return too many people to poverty and drive many into homelessness at a time when we should be supporting people’s wellbeing and taking steps towards recovery.

"As we move towards COVID-19 recovery, while people are seeking paid work, they need the certainty they’ll have enough money to put adequate food on the table, stay well and remain safely housed."

With the numbers of people staring down the barrel of unemployment predicted to continue to rise, we need an urgent commitment from the Government to provide a permanent and adequate increase of income support payments.

This would not only lift people out of poverty, but also help people to regain control of their lives, wellbeing and finances, as well as access transport and many other essential resources to seek and be ready for work.”

Youth employment

Mission Australia CEO James Toomey said: “We know that young people will be disproportionately affected by the recession caused by COVID-19, as they are trying to transition from education to work when there are fewer jobs available.

The Government has acknowledged this reality with the measures announced in the Federal Budget.

"We welcome the announcement of wage subsidies for young people and hope that they will make a significant contribution in helping young people to engage in the labour market at a time of significant disruption for them."

We also welcome the new wage subsidies for trainees and apprentices, but are concerned about what will happen after 12 months when the subsidy expires. We are also very concerned about many other people who are unemployed and severely impacted by the recession, especially those who have experienced unemployment for long periods and others who are disadvantaged in the labour market.

We recognise the ongoing need for specialist youth employment assistance programs such as Transition to Work and are heartened by the Government’s investment of $21.9 million in this vital program.

"There remains a critical need for more targeted programs to help disadvantaged young people into work."

Every young person in Australia should have every opportunity to thrive and have access to the services, supports, education and training that they need.”


Medianet, Brotherhood of St. Laurence (BSL), media release, 6 October 2020:


People hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic will be left behind by a recession that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg labelled a “once-in-a-century shock”. The Brotherhood of St. Laurence (BSL) believes the federal government’s budget has missed an historic opportunity to bring all Australians along in the recovery from COVID-19.

While BSL was happy to see a focus on youth employment and training, the Morrison Government has offered very little support to others in need.

This budget falls drastically short for Australians doing it tough,” says BSL Executive Director, Conny Lenneberg. “The government showed great leadership during this pandemic with initiatives like JobKeeper and the Coronavirus Supplement. But even though this crisis is far from over, the supplement has now been cut. People around the country still need help to rebuild their lives.”

Those who are relying on income support have been given no certainty that they won’t be back on $40 a day come January, even though the government’s own predictions show unemployment will still be above 8% at the end of this calendar year. This lack of certainty means unemployed Australian parents don’t know how they’ll cover their rent and budget beyond Christmas,” said Ms Lenneberg.

The Treasurer said in his speech that ‘This is what it means to look after one’s fellow Australian’. But millions of people are not being looked after by this budget. When we look at the most disadvantaged groups, like single mothers and their children, there is nothing in this budget that would make them feel that anyone has their back,” said Ms Lenneberg.

The Parliamentary Budget Office revealed that the number of single mothers on the former Newstart (now named JobSeeker) skyrocketed from 7.3% in 2007 to 27.4% in 2019. This will only be made worse by the recession. That’s why BSL believes this budget should have addressed the rate of social security payments.

The Coronavirus Supplement was a lifeline for millions of people, but since it was slashed at the end of September, millions have been pushed back below the poverty line.

It is alarming that at a time when 1.6 million Australians are relying on JobSeeker to get by, the government can hand down a budget that doesn’t talk about social security,” says Ms Lenneberg.

BSL is calling for a permanent adequate increase to JobSeeker and the establishment of an independent Social Security Commission to set, monitor and review social security payment rates, much like the one that determines the rate of pay for politicians.

It’s time to take the politics out of social security,” says Ms Lenneberg. “Making sure this country’s most disadvantaged people can get back on their feet is far too important.”

The Brotherhood of St. Laurence is a social justice organisation working to prevent and alleviate poverty across Australia.

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