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Reactions to the Federal Budget: part two

Introduction by Croakey: Health, community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and services have welcomed significant Budget measures on health and cost of living relief, but pointed to disappointing missed opportunities on addressing many of the social and cultural determinants of health.

This post compiles statements from: SNAICC, Homelessness Australia, Advocacy for Inclusion, Refugee Council of Australia, Australian Dental Association, Mission Australia, Dementia Australia, Suicide Prevention Australia, Australasian College of Paramedics, National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance), Independent MP for Mackellar Dr Sophie Scamps, Allied Health Professions Australia, Wilderness Society, Murray Darling environment peaks, Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA), Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, Doctors Reform Society, Australian College of Nursing, National Mental Health Consumer Alliance, Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

*** Additional responses added in from 12 May: Institute of Community Directors Australia, Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences, Rural Doctors Association of Australia, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) and Australian Health Promotion Association.

See our earlier post with responses from: Australian Medical Association (AMA), Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP), Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, Public Health Association of Australia, Everybody’s Home, Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), Close the Gap, Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA), Catholic Health Australia, community services provider cohealth, Australian Alcohol and other Drugs Council (AADC), Consumers Health Forum of Australia, Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association, and People with Disability Australia.


Missed opportunity for Indigenous children, families

SNAICC – National Voice for our Children

SNAICC says Budget 2023 is a missed opportunity by the Albanese Government to deliver funding that supports its commitments to improve life outcomes and safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.

CEO Catherine Liddle welcomed the Government’s commitments to make childcare cheaper for all families and support the skills and training of workers in early childhood education.

But she said much more needs to be done to remove the barriers facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families accessing early education and to close the gap so children can thrive.

The Closing the Gap outcomes on children being developmentally ready for school, and reducing the over representation in out-of-home care are off track and worsening.

“We recognise the Albanese Government has already announced initiatives such as reforming the Activity Test so all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children can access 36 hours of subsidised childcare a fortnight from July 2023,” Liddle said.

“This is welcome but to really make the difference so our children meet developmental milestones and are ready for school, the Activity Test must be removed.

“This was recognised by the Senate Select Committee on Work and Care, which also recommended an immediate increase in funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early education and care services.

“We are disappointed not to see Budget-backed efforts to reduce the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care.

“Earlier this year the Government released Action Plans under Safe and Supported, the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children.

“Safe and supported has the potential to be a game changer in keeping our children safe and connected to family and culture and out of the child protection and youth justice systems.

“But unless the commitments are backed up by funding they are just words on paper.

“We acknowledge the Government’s increases to working age payments which will benefit about 150,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

“What we’d also like to see is a renewed commitment to the National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap priority reforms, so Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people drive some of these Budget commitments, such as the $200m to tackle community disadvantage through place-based reforms.”


Some help for renters, but no social housing boost

Homelessness Australia

Australia’s peak body for homelessness said the Budget will put desperately needed dollars in the hands of struggling renters, but the huge challenge of inadequate supply of social housing and overstretched homelessness services remains to be addressed.

Homelessness Australia CEO Kate Colvin said the increase in the base rate of JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and Austudy was welcome but will be quickly eclipsed by further rental increases.

“Every dollar helps. But unfortunately, many recipients will still be treading water and more rent rises are expected. The truth is, the housing crisis and pressure on homelessness services will continue,” she said.

Colvin said an opportunity was missed to invest in a rapid rehousing fund to acquire properties that could be almost immediately made available to homeless families.

“While the Budget includes a financial surplus, it has left a social deficit of unresolved homelessness that will create hardship for families and financial costs to the community in future years.”

Colvin welcomed:

  • resources for First Nations remote housing in the Northern Territory
  • programs to respond to domestic and family violence for women and children in First Nations communities
  • the decision to extend the investment in funds for the Equal Remuneration Order by one year,
  • expanded eligibility for Parenting Payment Single, and
  • increased income support for people who have been unemployed for more than nine months and who are over 55.

Welcome news on NDIS, but poverty still bites

Advocacy for Inclusion

A peak body for Canberrans with disabilities said the Budget delivered welcome signs of NDIS continuity and money to fix the scheme but missed the opportunity to address cost of living issues for people with disability especially on the Disability Support Pension (DSP).

Advocacy for Inclusion Acting Chief Executive Officer Craig Wallace said: “We welcome undertakings to maintain a demand driven National Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and better operational funding plus investment to improve quality and safeguards.  However Government is underinvesting in capacity building work for people with disability to engage with the scheme and to address NDIS market issues which hamper sustainability and consumer choice and control.

“We welcomed a small but significant package of COVID protection measures including income replacement for Disability Support Workers.

“There are very modest increases in income support payments including Jobseeker, Parenting Payment and Rent Assistance while Younger Disability Support Pensioners will also a receive a small increase but these are far from the levels needed to address adequacy.

“We’re disappointed for Canberrans on DSP who do not receive assistance despite being squeezed hard by cost-of-living pressures and the additional cost of disability.  We continue to call for a modest Disability and Illness supplement of $50 a week and reform of pension access arrangements so people get support in crisis.

“Our White Paper on Income Support included a model Budget which shows that people with disability face a shortfall of around $824 per fortnight on conservative estimates after paying for the bare necessities of private rental housing, groceries, on demand transport, utilities and other expenses with little left over for emergencies.

“We welcomed energy bill relief although we are still working through the detail of how assistance is accessed and we also welcomed funding to reduce the co-payment for medicines under Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

“We cautiously welcome initiatives to transition the supported employment sector out of underpayment conditions and for skills and apprenticeships among people with disability.  We note initiatives to move young people out of residential aged care but more detail is needed on how funding will lead to outcomes.

“We were disappointed not to see more dedicated investment for accessible housing and also violence prevention initiatives recommended by organisations in the sector responding to issues identified by the Disability Royal Commission.


Welcome measures on refugee supports

Refugee Council of Australia

The Refugee Council has welcomed the announcement $136 million over 4 years from 2023–24 (and $36 million ongoing) to support the mental health of survivors of torture and trauma before moving to Australia on humanitarian grounds.

It says this will take place through the Program of Assistance for Survivors of Torture and Trauma, and other culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

It also welcomes the announcement of $9.1 million in 2023–24 to extend existing Youth Transition Support services for 12 months to 30 June 2024 to continue settlement services to young refugees and migrants to improve their employment outcomes.

It notes there is no announcement on 2023-24 Refugee and Humanitarian visa numbers in the Budget, but it is hearing an announcement may come next month after the Government’s community consultation process concludes.

“The unfair and dangerous Immigration Assessment Authority is only budgeted for the next year, suggesting that the system may finally be wound up following reforms to the administrative review system. We continue to call for the abolishment of the IAA. “

The Refugee welcomes, as something it’s been calling for for over a decade, that the Government will removed the five year maximum duration of eligibility for services under the  Settlement Engagement and Transition Support Program, the National Community Hubs Program + Youth Transition Support services.


Lack of dental help a lost opportunity

 Australian Dental Association (ADA)

The ADA says the Budget was a lost opportunity to provide financial support for the nation’s most vulnerable groups who spend years on public waiting lists in the hope of getting the dental treatment they so badly need.

It notes however that the Treasurer did announce the long awaited 15% pay rise for aged care workers which at a cost of $11.3 billion over 4 years, would mean more (or retained existing) staff to attend the needs of more people in aged care.

“What’s missing in this picture though,” said CEO Damian Mitsch, “is that there is no commitment to training these aged care staff in better oral care in residential facilities, which often precipitates an onset of a range of other health conditions when oral health needs are not met.

“The government needs to follow through with training of those existing and new aged care workers to ensure they are skilled in oral care maintenance, spotting problems and calling in the dentist or taking residents to the dentist, as well as other changes we pushed for in the ADA’s Aged Care Royal Commission submission.”

Also in the Budget is an additional 360,000 eligible (lower income) adult public patients will be able to receive dental treatment, improving their oral health and helping to increase access to public dental services, set to cost $219.4 million. The funding will see services continue while longer-term, more fit-for-purpose funding arrangements are developed with states and territories.

The ADA says the only other tangible good news on the oral health front is that part of the ramped up excise on tobacco, $3.3bn, will be used to stop the illegal trade in 90m flavoured vapes pouring into the country every year.

“This is an area the ADA has pressed government on for many years and we’re pleased to see material steps being taken.”


Not enough on poverty, housing, homelessness

Mission Australia

Mission Australia said the Budget takes small positive steps but is not enough to end the housing and homelessness emergency.

It said it is concerned, amidst cost-of-living pressures, that the Government’s refusal to increase JobSeeker to at least $76 daily will force more people into poverty and homelessness.

“We acknowledge the Government’s intent to ease some of the pressures for people who are doing it tough, and their genuine discussions with the community sector. However, the lack of a substantial increase to JobSeeker and other income support payments is disappointing.”

It said there is no new initiative of scale to respond to the current devastating housing emergency – “nothing to stop more and more people being pushed into homelessness across the country”.

“The government’s efforts on housing for low-income earners remain measures that will see some more social housing eventually, but nothing by way of immediate relief for people without safe and affordable homes.”

Mission Australia said it was also concerned by the lack of investment to prevent youth homelessness. “We particularly hoped to see a commitment to more Youth Foyers nationwide to provide vital housing, education and employment opportunities and help young people who are homeless or at risk to thrive.”

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Welcome support for aged care, dementia

Dementia Australia

Dementia Australia welcomed the significant investment in the aged care workforce and dementia specific initiatives in the Budget including a Clinical Quality Registry, investment in rarer forms of dementia and funding for longer GP consultations, which will benefit people living with dementia, their families and carers.

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said the $98.2 million for longer GP consultations will support the diagnosis experience and the ongoing disease management for people living with dementia, their families and carers.

“The 15 per cent increase in wages for the whole aged care workforce is greatly appreciated but this is not just about numbers – it’s also about building capacity of the aged care workforce to deliver quality care to the more than 400,000 Australians living with dementia,” McCabe said.

Dementia Australia will continue to advocate for compulsory dementia education for new and existing workers.

“We know dementia education leads to a reduction in high-risk incidents, lower rates of inappropriate use of medication and more positive staff attitudes and morale, which ultima