Andrew Wilkie MP, Independent Member for Clark

I strongly support TasCOSS’s Tasmania Package which identifies key policies and programs to tackle poverty and inequality in Tasmania, supporting Tasmanian households struggling with the rising cost of living.

1. Raising the rate of income support

I have long advocated for all government pensions and payments to be raised above the poverty line. The current rates are obviously way too low and force many Australians to live in misery.

There have been a multitude of reports and economic modelling demonstrating that increasing Centrelink pensions and payments would be the most efficient way to reduce financial stress and poverty in Australia. The call to increase payments above the poverty line echoes statements from the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Council of Social Services, Councils on the Ageing, KPMG and Deloitte Access Economics to name a few.

It should be an absolute priority for the next Federal Government to pay every eligible Australian a base rate that would cover people’s reasonable expenses and enable them to live a dignified life.

I agree with the TasCOSS call for the next Federal Government to:

  • Increase the rate of Jobseeker, Youth Allowance and other income support payments to at least $70 per day;
  • Further supplement the income of people with additional living costs, including people with disability; and
  • Index all payments to wages as well as prices.

2. Affordable housing solutions

I believe that access to safe and stable housing is of paramount importance. The high cost of housing in Tasmania needs to be addressed as a priority and I agree with the TasCOSS call for the next Federal Government to:

  • Provide a 50% increase to the Commonwealth Rent Assistance Payment;
  • Introduce incentives to bring more private housing stock into the long-term rental market;
  • Deliver incentives to shift investment in rental housing from individual to institutional options; and
  • Boost investment in social housing to deliver a pipeline of new stock as part of a national housing strategy.

3. Investment in household energy efficiency and the reduction of energy debt

I agree that energy efficiency upgrades should be rolled out for all existing homes of Tasmanians on low incomes, and that minimum energy efficiency standards should be mandatory for rental properties. Improving energy efficiency is not only better for the environment, but reduces energy bills for low income households. Families and households which are having difficulties paying their energy bills should be provided with financial support to do so.

I agree with the TasCOSS call for the next Federal Government to:

  • Commit to the Commonwealth and Tasmanian governments working together to fund a program of investment in energy efficiency upgrades and improvement for existing homes of Tasmanians on low incomes, together with minimum energy efficient standards for rental properties; and
  • Provide additional financial support of up to $1,000 per household experiencing payment difficulties and energy debt.

4. Increasing digital skills and affordability

I believe digital services need to more inclusive and agree with the TasCOSS call for the next Federal Government to:

  • Introduce a telecommunications concession to support people on low incomes to access data services; and
  • Provide funding for community-based digital skills and education programs to support identified priority groups at higher risk of digital exclusion.

5. Improved access to dental health care

Constituents regularly raise dental care concerns with me and it’s clear that some people are waiting far too long to access the public dental care system, and many people are going without. This is obviously not only bad for their dental health, but associated with other serious health conditions like heart disease.

As a rich country we can afford to fund dental care properly and I have long advocated for basic dental care to be rolled into Medicare. I will continue to lobby the Federal Government on the need for Australia to have a publicly funded dental care scheme.

It should also be noted that if we spend a little on preventative dental health now, not only will we save on future medical bills but also reduce the state’s most common reason for preventative hospital admissions.

I agree with the TasCOSS call for the next Federal Government to:

  • Commit to a long-term funding model that doubles the number of Tasmanian adults who can access Commonwealth/State funded public dental health services, including ensuring access to Tasmanians living in rural and regional areas;
  • Fund a sustainable public dental workforce to meet the oral health needs of Tasmanians and provide best practice care that ensures the oral health of Tasmanians improves; and
  • As a step towards a universal scheme, establish a Seniors Dental Benefit Scheme to make oral health and dental care more accessible to all older Australians as recommended by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

Download TasCOSS’s 2022 Federal Election Tasmania Package (PDF, 3.28MB) to view offline.