Calls for welfare boost
Welfare groups say the divide is getting bigger between the wealthy and those in financial distress. Image by Nikki Short/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Call to boost support for the ‘financially distressed’

March 21, 2024

One in eight Australians who are living in poverty would have up to $35 extra going straight into their pocket if it were up to welfare advocate Cassandra Goldie.

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) chief executive is calling for the upcoming federal budget to lift social security payments and target investments to combat rising unemployment.

“People are facing destitution every day and the power to change that picture is in the hands of this parliament,” she said.

“We would be able to lift up the opportunities for people who are experiencing the worst of the cost of living crisis, the housing crisis and who are experiencing worsening health impacts from being so financially distressed.”

The council is urging the Albanese government to boost JobSeeker and Youth Allowance to at least $80 per day, up from $55 and $45 respectively. 

Cassandra Goldie
 Cassandra Goldie says people struggling with cost of living pressures need more support. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS 

Lasting tax reform to increase revenue for welfare payments – including limiting property investor tax breaks and fairer superannuation tax concessions – was crucial, Ms Goldie said.

“None of us should escape the fact that despite being a very wealthy country, we do not collect enough revenue to be able to invest properly in critical essential services,” she said.

“We collect the ninth lowest (in the world) when it comes to overall revenue, and that is why we’re one of the lowest when it comes to our public expenditures.

“In terms of our tax proposals, we must fairly raise more out of the superannuation system in a way that helps us to fund decent aged care into the future.”

While working Australians would benefit from changes to stage three tax cuts, Ms Goldie was concerned there would be no relief for the unemployed.

Ms Goldie said there were “two very different pictures” between wealthy Australians and people on income support benefits “who have nothing behind them and are trying to afford rent”. 

With roughly one in three people living on a low income earning less than the tax-free threshold, Ms Goldie said the government needed to address the cost of living crisis through the transfer payments system, not the tax system.

The council has urged the government to boost the Remote Area Allowance for the first time in almost 25 years and allocate extra funding for homelessness and other crisis services. 

“It is shameful that we have allowed a critical additional payment that is made to address … exorbitant increasing costs for the essentials of life in remote communities … after years of watching the growth in cost in these communities,” Ms Goldie said.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers will hand down the federal budget on May 14.