This response discusses how the key changes presented in September’s Federal Budget are likely to have an impact on different social issue areas; positive and negative. We explore how, while being primarily about securing jobs and stimulating the economy, there are a number of people and groups who are at risk of being left behind.
As we’ve come to expect, this Federal Budget was framed around jobs and the economy. And during a time of economic recession – indeed the largest since the great depression – it is an important response. Jobs are a vital ingredient to economic recovery, but they are not enough alone. We need a ‘jobs and…’ Budget. If we look through Australia’s recent economic history at our booms and busts since the Second World War, economic recovery and strength has been marked by (at least) four common ingredients:
1. The creation and maintenance of jobs (and therefore low unemployment rates),
2. People consuming goods and services (and with (1) addressed as well as a living standard social security rate, they have the resources to do so),
3. Government regulation and investment in economic activities (prices, taxes, wages and investment in essential industries), and
4. Looking after and investing in people (through social security safety nets, increased migration and so on).
We’ve seen the government focus on a number of these through the creation of jobs, incentivising employers, improving safety nets in some areas and providing additional support for young people, veterans, mental health services, still birth, but so many are left behind.
There is a conspicuous absence of support for Indigenous Australians, there is barely a mention of children, families, refugees and migrants. And where is social housing? There’s support for infrastructure, which is vital, but not calling out social housing specifically was an enormously missed opportunity.
As the Budget papers outlined, Australia’s economy had contracted by 7 per cent in the June quarter. In the space of just one month, more than one million Australians had lost their jobs or saw their working hours reduced to zero. There is an expected deficit of $213.7 billion, equivalent to 11 per cent of the GDP. These changes in the functioning economy have had a dramatic impact on business and the larger structure of the labour force. Against this backdrop, there have also been widespread changes to the functioning of the economy because of the various public health orders and social distancing rules that have been introduced to prevent the spread of the virus. We have also seen profound social and health implications on the way we live: how we work, play, interact and belong.
In this response, our first, we will dive a little deeper into some key social issue areas to explore what the budget means for particular groups.
1. Beyond jobs: financial wellbeing out of reach for many
2. Youth Unemployment: a key policy priority in a recession
3. Indigenous Australians: left out and left behind by the Federal Budget
4. Economic and social issues: can be addressed simultaneously by Government spending
5. Housing and Homelessness: The Budget brought limited good news
6. NDIS: gets a top-up after 2019 under-spend
7. Mental Health: a welcome boost to existing supports but ensuring people are not left behind is a priority
8. The pandemic impacts women more than men, but male-dominated sectors get the funding in this budget
9. Charities: will have to brace for an increased demand, on reduced funding