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A budget of wasted opportunities.



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ACOSS Media Release Issued 10pm 9 May 2000

A budget of wasted opportunities "This Budget is a sorry saga of wasted opportunities. While it has a few bright spots, it does not provide the relief that low income Australians need and deserve," said ACOSS President, Michael Raper.

"Four years of strong economic growth should have delivered a big social dividend to the three-quarters of a million households living in poverty."

"Instead, revenue is being wasted on tax cuts and concessions for high income earners and by inadequate action to close the remaining unfair loopholes in the income tax system. This situation is made worse by the abandonment of the progressive and much-needed ‘Timor Levy’."

"There are some welcome measures to assist disadvantaged people and regions, including:

- the extra medical services and health professionals for rural and regional Australia;

- the "Stronger Families and Communities" package;

- the 1,500 extra places in the Indigenous Community Development and Employment Program;

- the 10% increase in the Assistance for Isolated Children payment.

"But these are slim pickings from a Government that pledged to put social needs at the top of its agenda."

"The big-ticket items that would make a real difference to struggling Australians are missing.

- There is no increase in social security payments for unemployed people and youth to bring them above the poverty line.

- There is no major new investment in wage subsidies and other training and employment services for disadvantaged jobseekers. Instead there is a pilot program to expand ‘mutual obligation’ to new groups of people — before the Government’s own Welfare Review completes its deliberations, and with no guarantee of the necessary resources and supports.

- There are no new dedicated resources for Aboriginal-controlled health, housing and children’s services; and harsh measures rather than more help for people on temporary protection visas and disadvantaged newly arrived migrants.

- There is no substantial new investment to make housing and child care more affordable for low income people, or improve the supply of critical community services in areas such as home and residential care, dental health, or disability services.

- There is no boost to public health funding. Instead the only solution the Government has for the ailing public health system is to continue to pour billions into wastefully propping up private health funds."

In conclusion, Michael Raper said: "Overall, this Budget fails to take the significant steps we so desperately need to stem the growing tide of inequality in Australia. From the point of view of low income and disadvantaged Australians, it’s a poor and disappointing performance."

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