Church organisations have spoken out on the 2015-2016 Federal Budget, which was delivered last night by Joe Hockey, Treasurer.
The Uniting Church in Australia has expressed overall disappointment at the budget, singling out measures that will add to the suffering of the most vulnerable in Australia and abroad.
Spending on Australia’s First Peoples social security, welfare and health has stalled with expenses dropping or standing still on the back of last year’s $500 million cutback.
At the same time the Federal Government is establishing a $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to support major projects across northern Australia.
“Infrastructure funding is welcome, but it must not be at the expense of human infrastructure, particularly in northern Australia,” said Rev Prof Andrew Dutney, president of the Uniting Church in Australia.
“First Peoples must be equal partners in these enterprises and their rights and sovereignty respected. I expect the role of Indigenous Australians to be duly acknowledged in this process.”
Australia’s overseas aid program has also been hit hard.
The National Director of UnitingWorld Rob Floyd says he will seek further information from the Federal Government in the days ahead to see if and how ongoing programs will be affected.
“UnitingWorld’s programs in the Pacific, Asia and Africa bring relief and hope to some of the poorest of the poor,” said Rob. “It is vital that these programs continue to be delivered. This savage cut undermines both our reputation in the world and our efforts to promote peace.”
Micah Challenge, a coalition of Christian aid agencies, churches, schools, groups and individuals, also strongly condemns cuts to Australia’s aid program.
These cuts mean that Australia’s aid levels will now fall to 0.22% of national income by next year. This amounts to less than 1% of Federal Government expenditure dedicated to supporting our poorest neighbours and helping address global challenges.
“It is deeply shameful that our response to those challenges is ungenerous and counterproductive. While we are increasing spending on defence, intelligence, and asylum-seeker deterrence and detention, we are cutting Australian aid which helps provide hope and opportunity for so many,” said Ben Thurley, national co-ordinator of Micah Challenge.
In the community services sector, UnitingCare Australia believes the budget did get some things right, but it under invests in Australia’s vulnerable people.
“Worthwhile measures include investing in vulnerable children, continued commitment to the NDIS, tightening means testing for the age pension, and the groundwork for further aged care reform,” said Lin Hatfield Dodds, national director of UnitingCare Australia.
“However, we continue to see poorly-targeted Government handouts and not enough substantial investment in the people and areas that require the most support,” said Lin Hatfield Dodds.
“The Government needs to decide whether or not it is serious about clamping down on middle class welfare.”
“The poorest Australians continue to live on inadequate payments with single Newstart recipients living on just $260 a week. This is less than the amount an aged pensioner with a $1.5 million home and $300,000 in assets will continue to receive from the Government.
“A family on $160,000 per year with one child in child care will be able to access up to about $570 per week in childcare subsidies. This is more than twice the payment a single person on Newstart receives to live on.
“If we cannot afford to provide an adequate payment to Newstart recipients who will be actively looking for the work, and in some cases, working for the dole, we should not be subsidising the childcare of families who earn over $160,000 per year,” said Lin