Ross Womersley - Executive Director, SACOSS
Speech to Adelaide's March in May rally.
I don't want to keep you long, but I do have a few thoughts I want to offer on behalf of the South Australian Council of Social Service
SACOSS is the peak for the non-government charitable & community services sector in SA and we have a mission to promote fairness, justice and shared wealth for all members of our community. In such a rich nation, where the great majority of us do so well, we don’t accept for a second that there is a place for poverty, a place for injustice, or a place for arguments that suggest we can’t afford to share our wealth.
Sadly as we have already heard repeatedly and as my colleague and the CEO of ACOSS, Dr Cassandra Goldie observed shortly after the budget…”The real pain of this budget - crushing and permanent - will be felt by people on low incomes, young people, single parents, those with illness or disability, and those struggling to keep a roof over their heads. These are the groups doing the heavy lifting' for the Budget repair job.”
Among the most alarming measures from this budget are those that target our young people. New rules will deny income support to young people up to 29 years, for six months of every year, unless they are exempted. They will deny young people access to Newstart Allowance until 24 (a loss of $48 per week), and move more young people currently in receipt of the DSP back to Newstart or Youth Allowance, a cut of at least $166 per week.
This might well be alright if we were living in an economy that was booming and where there were countless jobs all needing to be filled. BUT as you all know, that is not our reality.
In some of Adelaide’s suburbs we have the highest rates of youth unemployment in the country. Carefully understated and disguised of course, by the fact that having just one hour a week of employment means you are counted as being amongst the employed.
If anywhere between 10-40% of young people living in an area are currently unemployed it’s not going to be because they are simply too lazy to get of their bums and out of bed to find work. IT IS GOING TO BE because there really aren’t the jobs around and no amount of making you starve is going to help that situation.
Add to this reductions in the way pensions will be indexed, a new requirement to pay to go to your GP, increases in fuel costs, PBS co-payments and university fees… we can expect to see an influx of people seeking support from our welfare services, an explosion of people in emergency departments and an increase in people in our correction’s system.
Let us be in no doubt these measures will only build and entrench divisions between those with decent incomes, housing and health care and those without them. They will fundamentally undermine the fabric of our social safety net and they fly in the face of a country that prides itself in ensuring everyone has a fair go.
Our job is to get out there and tell this story. We need to be talking to our family, to our neighbors and to our friends and colleagues. We need to find any way we can to help all the other people who haven’t gathered with us today, see that measures such as those about to be imposed will do nothing but entrench disadvantage, result in disengagement and drive people into grinding poverty.
These kinds of measures are far from fair, they promote injustice and they don’t allow everyone to benefit from the wonderful wealth we have available to us as a country.
Speech delivered on the steps of Parliament House, 18 May 2014.