The president of the Uniting Church in Australia, Stuart McMillan, says that, on balance, there is little to rejoice about in the 2017 Federal Budget.
“A two-year freeze on foreign aid, punitive new welfare measures including drug and alcohol testing for the unemployed, and the extension of income management just make life harder for the poor and most vulnerable,” said Stuart.
“In all this week’s commentary about winners and losers, we should remember that the poor are the ones who lose out most when governments neglect their needs. They are the ones who should be our focus.”
“Regrettably there are few blessings in this Budget for the poor in spirit, nor the prospect of the kind of support I’d expect of a wealthy developed nation like ours.”
Stuart however warmly welcomed the Government’s plan to raise the Medicare Levy to ensure full funding of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
“I applaud the Government’s decision to raise taxes to make life better for Australians with a disability,” said Mr McMillan. “I hope the Government will consider further tax increases in the future to cover NDIS costs if required – or indeed for other compassionate purposes.”
The National Director of UnitingWorld Rob Floyd has expressed his disappointment and concern about the freeze to foreign aid funding confirmed in the Budget.
“The Australian aid sector had called for an increase of around $1.6 billion in the 2017 Budget as a step toward returning our aid budget towards levels in accord with our international obligations,” he said.
“The aid freeze announced by the Government actually means Australia will spend $303 million less on foreign aid over the next four years.”
“The people who suffer the most here are the millions of people who rely on Australian aid in our region. I’m afraid churches, aid agencies and charities will have to work even harder to close this huge gap that the Government has left.”
Stuart also welcomed confirmation in the Budget of a Commonwealth Redress Scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse from July 2018.
“Our hope is that this will become the national scheme recommended by the Royal Commission,” he said.
UnitingCare Australia have also responded to the 2017 Federal Budget, which you can read here.