The Australian Council of Social Service wants the federal government to ramp up the JobSeeker allowance by 50 per cent in this year’s budget, as the poorest struggle with the cost of living.
As well as increasing JobSeeker from $50 a day to $76, ACOSS wants the Albanese government to scrap the stage three tax cuts and help make housing more energy efficient.
ACOSS has released its annual budget wishlist of things they’d like to see the government implement when the budget is handed on May 9.
The wishlist also includes scrapping the stage three tax cuts, which the Labor government promised to implement at the last election.
“We say now is the right time to fix the adequacy of our key social protection for people who are on the lowest incomes, who are being locked out of paid work,” ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said.
“So we think now is absolutely the right time for the government to step in.
“It’s a disgrace that we still have, being one of the wealthiest countries in the world, an unemployment payment which is the lowest among comparative OECD countries.”
Dr Cassandra Goldie is the CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service, calling for a shake-up of the tax system in the 2023-24 federal budget. Picture: Supplied
Dr Goldie said welfare recipients are struggling with basic daily necessities as inflation worsens the cost-of-living pressures.
“People on income support are skipping meals, foregoing essential medicines and turning off their hot water just to keep a roof over their head,” she said.
“The government must create a fairer tax system, and should start by cancelling stage three tax cuts for the wealthiest in our society.
“Australia – one of the wealthiest countries in the world – is still the ninth lowest when it comes to our overall tax base among OECD countries, and sixth lowest when it comes to our public expenditure.”
Dr Goldie said the government must start making bold decisions.
“With more than three million people in poverty in Australia, this budget must deliver cost of living relief for those who need it most and help shape a more inclusive society,” she said.
ACOSS wants to see the JobSeeker payment increased to at least $76 per day. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Geraghty
Other demands include abolishing the private health insurance rebate and fossil fuel subsidies; replacing them with a 15 per cent levy on post-retirement super earnings; a sugary drinks tax; an offshore gas royalty; broadening the base of the Medicare Levy; restricting investment property tax breaks; and reducing Capital Gains Tax concessions.
Dr Goldie also wants tax deductions axed on investment properties for any portion of the financial year in which that property hasn’t been rented out.
“We simply have far too many rental properties … sitting for long periods of time not actively really being available for rent to provide homes for people who need them.”
ACOSS is also pushing for ways to make low-income households more energy efficient, as draft energy regulator price increases show Australians paying 20-22 per cent more on power next financial year.
“People on income support are skipping meals, foregoing essential medicines and turning off their hot water just to keep a roof over their head.” — ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie. Picture: NewsWire/ Monique Harmer
An ACOSS survey of 208 people in February showed 62 per cent of respondents struggled to keep their homes cool in summer.
Ninety per cent reported the heat made them feel sick – and 30 per cent suffered heat stroke so bad they needed medical assistance.
“People on the lowest incomes are being impacted first, worst and longest by extreme weather events,” Dr Goldie said.
“People on low incomes are being forced to live in poorly-designed homes: they’re too hot in summer, they’re too cold in winter, and they’re too expensive to run.
“The most important thing we can do now is to invest properly in, first of all, lifting up the adequacy of incomes … secondly, that investment in energy efficiency for low-income homes, and mandating energy efficiency standards.”