Budget has no surplus of compassion, UCA leaders say

Deidre PalmerUCA President of the National Assembly Dr Deidre Palmer has responded to the 2019 federal Budget by encouraging Australians to put the urgent needs of others ahead of short-term self-interest.

The Budget, delivered by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in Canberra on 2 April, has promised $158 billion in income tax cuts over a decade on the back of projected surpluses that factored in cuts to foreign aid and no boost to welfare payments.

“As the contest for hearts and minds begins ahead of this year’s federal election, I urge Australians to give priority to justice, compassion and inclusion,” Dr Palmer said.

“The bottom line in this Budget is there is less support for the most vulnerable people in the most vulnerable nations, and less support for the most vulnerable at home.”

Dr Palmer strongly criticised a $1.6 billion underspend on the National Disability Insurance Scheme in the coming financial year.

However, she welcomed a number of measures confirmed in the Budget.

“I applaud the boost for mental health and suicide prevention,” she said.

“This is important and timely- as is the confirmation of $328 million in funding to reduce violence against women and children.

“I also welcome the funding set aside for a Royal Commission into the abuse and neglect of people with disability.”

UnitingCare Australia National Director Claerwen Little queried the Government’s priorities.

“A ‘surplus’ gained at the cost of allowing children to live in poverty, people with disabilities to go without the basic support they need, older Australians to die waiting for home care packages, and homelessness to reach record levels, does not measure up,” she said.

Foreign aid is set to drop to 0:19 per cent of Gross National Income in 2021-22 – well below the short-term target of 0.3 per cent supported by the Uniting Church and other advocates.

National Director of UnitingWorld Dr Sureka Goringe said the Budget failed both generous open-hearted Australian people and those with a vision of genuine regional partnership.

“We need to build trust and solidarity with our regional neighbours, working together to address inequality and injustice, not just pursue a narrow self-serving agenda,” Dr Goringe said.

President of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress Rev Garry Dronfield welcomed the allocation of $5 million for prevention of youth suicide in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“Unfortunately, it’s not enough to address the scale of crisis that we know exists,” Rev Dronfield said.

“There needs to be funding for diversionary programs to keep our vulnerable young people from the dangers of incarceration.”

Rev Dronfield also was concerned about the extension of the cashless debit card to other Northern Territory and Queensland communities, which he said undermined self-determination for Indigenous people.

Frontier Services’ National Director Jannine Jackson welcomed extra funding of $5.5m over four years for mental health services for people in Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland who have been affected by natural disasters.

UCA Funds Management welcomed the $550 million funding package for financial regulators ASIC and APRA announced in last night’s budget.

“We’ve been calling for funding to be restored to the regulators so they can implement the banking inquiry recommendations”, UCA Funds Management Director Investments James Cook said.

“This will help begin the long process for the financial services industry to regain the trust of the Australian community.”

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