Catholic Social Services weighs in on Budget

2022 Federal Budget big on politics, but light on for fairness

By Francis Sullivan, Chair CSSA

Last week’s budget speaks loud and clear as to where the Coalition government sees itself and who it needs to talk to in the lead-up to the May general election.

It is a budget that puts politics before fairness and the “comfortable middle” before the disadvantaged.

It is the sort of budget we have come to expect from a tired, 10-year government that doesn’t really know the questions, let alone have the answers, to the crippling issues that face millions of Australians every day.

What is it about the brutal realities of life that millions of Australians face every day that the Coalition doesn’t think should be addressed forcefully, and with a commitment to the basic tenets of egalitarianism?

The PM and Treasurer spruik the budget as “a cost-of-living budget”.

But the reality is that one-off payments and tax savings do not cover weekly increases in grocery bills, rents and other costs for people who can only just afford them as is.

The very example used by the government to demonstrate the benefits of fuel excise savings of $30 a week for families with two cars is a slap in the face for welfare recipients and others who don’t have one car, let alone two.

The fact is there are currently some three million Australians, including nearly 750,000 children, living in poverty. An absolute disgrace!

We face a major housing crisis, and I’m not talking about people trying to buy their first home. I’m talking about a shortfall of more than 433,000 social housing properties and tens of thousands of men, women and children who every night struggle to find somewhere to sleep.

Despite this, there is no funding to build new social and emergency housing.

For a government that prides itself on economic management, it has failed to demonstrate how wages for low income earners are ever going to be able to keep up with inflation.

The very people who provided the most support through the pandemic, workers in aged care, health and disability, all drew a blank from a budget that – in a cynical marketing move – allocated almost a third of this year’s $222m to the national plan to prevent violence against women for “communication campaigns”.

And the greatest drain on the weekly budget continues to be rents that, in the past two years, have sky rocketed by close to 20 per cent.

The best answer the Prime Minister could offer as to why there was no support for renters in the budget is, “the best way to support people renting a house is to help them buy a house”. He might as well have just said, “let them eat cake”.

It is so hard to find anything in this budget that goes to the long-term, that addresses the systemic problems.

The budget offers no general increase in JobSeeker or other social security payments. It offers nothing to boost income support to people facing the devastation of disasters. Nothing to deliver energy efficiency technologies for people on low incomes.

While the short-term, one-off benefits might buy some votes (might), the government has failed, yet again, to meet the minimum expectation of governing for all. The “us and them” divide has never been more obvious and the lack of leadership never more glaring. Where is the vision for a fairer Australia? Francis Sullivan is the chair of Catholic Social Services Australia.