On Tuesday 25 October 2022, Treasurer, the Hon Dr Jim Chalmers MP, handed down the latest Federal Budget.
While this budget demonstrated a significant change in approach towards building a more inclusive society, TasCOSS was disappointed to see very little by way of immediate relief which will help Tasmanians struggling with the ever-increasing costs of living.
More on that later, however, there were some positive announcements in the budget.
Housing is a fundamental human right and it was pleasing to see a strong commitment to fast-tracking the delivery of more social and affordable homes at the heart of this budget. This is desperately needed, with thousands of Tasmanians trapped in acute housing stress and those on the social housing waiting list currently waiting well over a year for a home. More details on the housing commitments can be found in the budget papers.
We urge the Government to now take further action to support Tasmanians to remain in the private rental market, including by extending the National Rental Affordability Scheme and increasing Commonwealth Rent Assistance. This must be a priority with rental vacancy rates less than 1%.
There were some other notable announcements contained within the budget. Namely, $1.3 billion for women’s safety and initiatives, more Government-funded fee-free TAFE places, and the extension of paid parental leave and childcare subsidies which will enhance women’s workforce participation. Reduced cost for medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) is also timely news, with Tasmanians telling us each and every day that they forgo medicines because of cost.
Disappointingly, the Government squandered the opportunity to remedy one of the greatest blights on our country: our woefully inadequate and punitive social safety net. Raising the rate of JobSeeker and related payments to at least $73 a day would have enabled Tasmanians to live with dignity and afford the essentials.
TasCOSS were also disappointed to see lack of action at a federal level to combat rising electricity costs, with our bills still the highest in the country and the number of Tasmanians in energy debt — and the amount of that debt — continuing to grow. Tasmanian electricity prices have risen 11.9% this year and with continuing volatility expected in the energy market, we are greatly concerned at the likelihood that higher price increases are still to come.
With regard to digital inclusion, we welcome measures to improve connectivity, resilience and affordability for people living in regional Australia, especially the delivery of free broadband for up to 30,000 unconnected families with school aged students. Given Tasmania is the most digitally disadvantaged state in the country, we will be seeking a higher proportion of the funding package for our state. While these initiatives are positive, more concrete action to address affordability and digital ability are required, given the essential nature of digital services.
The inadequate rate of indexation is presenting challenges for community service organisations across the board, and while the announcement of a $560 investment pool for Commonwealth-funded community services is welcome it points to a much larger issue of chronic underfunding from governments at both levels. We continue to call for governments to increase the level of investment in essential community services in the longer term.
We’ve collated feedback and reactions to the Federal Budget from the community services industry, which you can view at the following links:
- Aged & Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA)
- Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
- Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance
- Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA)
- Consumers Health Forum of Australia
- Council on the Ageing (COTA)
- Energy Efficiency Council
- Everybody’s Home
- Good Things Foundation
- Mission Australia
- National Disability Services (NDS)
- National Shelter
- National Voice for our Children
- People with Disability Australia (PWDA)
- Settlement Council of Australia
- UnitingCare Australia
- Volunteering Australia
If you’d like to get in touch with your response to the budget or have any questions, please contact Dr Charlie Burton, Manager Policy, via email.