Messages of Hope

Build Back Better – & the National Budget

Published / by Sandy

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia Dr Deidre Palmer has welcomed the Federal Government’s investment in job creation and recovery measures but says the 2020 budget is a missed opportunity to bring about a more equitable and fairer Australia.

Dr Palmer commended the Government’s focus on getting people back into work, particularly young people, but says the budget as a whole neglects those who need the most support to recover from the pandemic.

“As we noted in our Build Back Better statement, COVID-19 has highlighted the stark inequality and disparity in our Australian society,” said Dr Palmer. “Going forward we need a plan that will build resilient communities and a sustainable future, but this budget fails to live up to those hopes.”

The Budget announced last night failed to raise the base rate of JobSeeker, a move which would have provided much needed security to those who are out of work and who do not qualify for the tax cuts at the centre of the Budget.

Unless further changes are announced, those on JobSeeker will return to the pre-COVID-19 rate on 31 December 2020.  

Last week Uniting Church women leaders called on the Government to prioritise measures to support women, but the budget has little support for women struggling right now.

The Government has prioritised incentives for construction and infrastructure, over social care services, sectors which employ high numbers of women and which would generate far more overall economic benefits.

Other missed opportunities include no investment in more affordable housing and no significant funding for renewable energy or climate action. Rather the Government has invested more than $60million in gas projects and infrastructure.

Also, disappointingly, the refugee humanitarian intake has been cut and financial support has dropped for asylum seekers living in Australia.

In a media release issued last night, UnitingCare Australia National Director Claerwen Little warned that despite record spending and investment, millions of Australians are still at risk of deepening disadvantage.

“We are disappointed that the Government has not taken this moment to raise the base rate of JobSeeker and provide confidence and hope for millions of Australians facing poverty and a very bleak Christmas” said Ms Little.

“This budget is also a missed opportunity to invest in social housing and ensure that everyone has shelter in the storm of this recession.” Watch the video of Ms Little address media in Canberra this morning. 

Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress Interim Chairperson Pastor Mark Kickett said despite some measures to support Closing the Gap and specific health measures, overall our First Peoples have been neglected.

UnitingWorld National Director Sureka Goringe welcomed the $4billion for Overseas Development Aid including additional money to assist with COVID-19 recovery in the Pacific but was concerned it fell short of addressing the growing need in the global context of the pandemic.

Frontier Services National Director Jannine Jackson welcomed increased funding for mental health care but warned this may prove insufficient for the combined impacts of COVID-19, bushfires and drought and failed to address the gap in health services for people living in rural and remote areas.

Dr Palmer added: “As we chart a path to recovery at this critical time in our nation’s history, we strongly encourage the Government to prioritise measures that support the well-being of all Australians.”