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Catholic Welfare warns poor should not bankroll border protection

Catholic Welfare Australia believes people with disabilities, struggling to make ends meet on social security pensions, should not be targeted in the Treasurer's savings campaign to bankroll border protection and the War on Terrorism.

A comprehensive border protection plan combining defence, police, customs and immigration services, and costing more than $600 million, is expected to be the centrepiece of tomorrow's seventh Coalition Budget.

Catholic Welfare believes access to the Disability Support Pension will be reduced by lowering the work test from 30 to 15 hours a week. This, it says, would see a significant number of people with disabilities shifted onto unemployment benefits - a rate of payment around $50 per fortnight less than the pension and subject to harsh job search tests.

"The Government's unwillingness to deny rumours that Disability Pensions and services will suffer huge cuts in [tomorrow night's] Budget is of great concern," said Mr Toby O'Connor, National Director of Catholic Welfare Australia. "Fears persist that the Treasurer will be dipping into the pockets of the disabled to shore up his bottom line.

Meanwhile, Fr Joe Caddy of Catholic Social Services Victoria, says in a letter to The Australian today says the Federal Treasurer should not look to cut benefits from individuals and families who have gained nothing from the recent economic boom.

He writes: "If the Treasurer is looking for savings in the coming Budget he should look elsewhere and not at the programs and entitlements that assist people with disabilities, sole parents, and the long-term unemployed.
For many of them, disadvantage has become more entrenched over the boom years. Rather than suffer from cutbacks they ought to be given additional assistance."

Costello's $600m to seal borders

CWA/The Australian (payment required)

13 May 2002