The President of the Uniting Church in Australia Stuart McMillan has welcomed a number of important initiatives for First Australians in the 2018 Federal Budget.
Mr McMillan said he was cheered by confirmation of a $550 million federal commitment to a new five-year agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing with the Northern Territory Government.
“The housing needs of First Peoples have been scandalously neglected for so long,” he said.
“The government has promised to ensure Aboriginal community control will be at the heart of this investment, from decision-making to employment and business procurement. If it does this, it will be an excellent outcome.”
Mr McMillan was delighted at the extension of Medicare funding for dialysis services in rural and remote regions and confirmation that Purple House – Western Desert Dialysis in Alice Springs will receive $23 million in funding over the next few years.
“This is wonderful news and something which the Uniting Church has campaigned for over many years,” he said.
However, Mr McMillan said he was disappointed the government hadn’t directed more of its $25.9 billion revenue windfall to those most in need.
“Treasurer Morrison was blessed to receive manna from heaven in the form of extra revenue. Despite this providence, the government has continued its freeze on foreign aid and there is no increase to Newstart,” Mr McMillan said.
“We know that this only entrenches poverty at home and abroad.”
The aid freeze means that development partners will miss out on more than $140 million over the next four years. If this trend continues Australian aid will only make up 19 cents in every $100 of gross national income by 2021-22, nowhere near the United Nations’ ODA target of 0.7 percent.
“I’m sure there are many Australians who would happily set aside their tax cuts of around $10 a week if they knew that there was a safety net for the most vulnerable people in their community and our region,” Mr McMillan said.
Mr McMillan also expressed concerns about the government’s diminishing commitment to developing clean energy – a key factor to addressing climate change.
He warmly welcomed the funding commitment of $3.6 million towards the establishment of an Anti-Slavery Unit in the Department of Home Affairs.
“The funding announced seeks to strengthen Australia’s overall ability to combat modern slavery, including strengthening criminal justice outcomes and enhancing victim support – which are both needed,” he said.
“Faith and business leaders have campaigned strongly for a Modern Slavery Act for several years now and we look forward to its implementation.
“Getting slavery out of our supply chains and stopping slavery-like conditions in Australia are justice issues that directly impact our Pacific Island Uniting Church members and our regional church partners.”
Mr McMillan also welcomed the government’s $247 million commitment to the National Schools Chaplaincy Programme over four years.
UnitingCare Australia National Director Claerwen Little welcomed the government’s commitment to older Australians, particularly the extra 14,000 home-care packages.
“These go some way to relieving the pain for those 105,000 people still waiting for support,” Ms Little said.
“There is still much more to be done for our aging population to ensure a viable, sustainable aged care system for the future.”
Ms Little also said she was deeply disturbed to find no increase in the Newstart Allowance and Youth Allowance, both of which she said were widely acknowledged to be “grossly inadequate”.
Read the full UnitingCare Australia Budget 2018 Media Release.