Vinnies sees long-term focus missing from Federal Budget

The St Vincent de Paul Society has cautioned Australians against taking comfort from the short-term gains in last night's Budget, with its spokesperson John Falzon suggesting that the Budget failed to "identify and address the areas of market failure and structural disadvantage in Australia today".

Dr Falzon said the Budget will not help generate equality of opportunity and "does nothing to promote a more cohesive Australia."

The Federal Government's 11th Budget includes $36.7 billion in tax cuts. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Budget will deliver tax cuts of almost $120 a week to people on annual incomes of $150,000, but just $7 a week to the lowest income earners and almost $10 to those on average incomes.

"The tax cuts and other benefits to low and middle income families are welcome but they do not address the problems experienced by Australians who are structurally locked out," said Dr Falzon.

He said the Budget did not address the failure in housing and transport affordability, which are depriving some Australians of a home and access to "fruitful" employment.

"It is an irresponsible use of market-driven ideology when the most vulnerable and voiceless members of society are denied a share of the generated wealth. Governments have a responsibility to do what markets cannot," he said.

"How is the $10.8 billion surplus being applied to provide future prosperity and fairness for all Australians? How is this embarrassment of riches being invested in the social infrastructure needs of today and tomorrow, so that all will have the opportunity to participate?" he asked.

Dr Falzon pointed to a Vinnies research paper by Mr Gavin Dufty that found a growth in inequality since 1990. The study attributed the trend to changes in the cost burdens of various goods and services, which are hitting those reliant on the rental housing market and public transport.

Meanwhile, Catholic Social Services said that Budget spending on some Australian families, Indigenous Australians and to areas such as mental health is "a good start but it does not help all Australians in need".

Executive Director Frank Quinlan said that the gains when coupled with tax cuts to the rich "fail to significantly narrow the gap between Australia's richest and poorest income earners."

"Many low income earners will continue to face crippling effective marginal tax rates as they attempt to re-enter the workforce and improve their circumstances," he said.

Catholic Health Australia's Francis Sullivan agrees that last night's Budget is not good news for the poor. He says that for many sick and chronically ill people on pensions, personal tax cuts come second to investments in the public hospital and social services system.

"Tax cuts will only ease half the problem and certainly will make little or no difference for those on pensions," he said.

"Australia's social safety net is eroding and the plight of those who rely exclusively on public services and social service programs is being drowned out by the clamour for tax cuts."

"Budget lacks long-term focus, boosts inequality" - Vinnies (St Vincent de Paul Society 9/5/06)
Benefits to the poor, but more to the rich (Catholic Social Services Australia 9/5/06)
Tax cuts and health and aged care investment strategies welcomed (Catholic Health Australia 9/5/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Budget 2006-07 (Australian Government) | Budget Speech
St Vincent de Paul Society
Catholic Social Services Australia
Catholic Health Australia

Federal Budget boosts family relationships (CathNews 11/5/05)
Catholic Health sees missed Budget opportunity for aged care (CathNews 11/5/05)
Budget non-event for poor but Govt delivers on aged care (CathNews 12/5/04)

Federal Budget 2006 - 07 (Aged Care News, Catholic Health Australia 9/5/06)
ALP signals support for budget tax cuts (Seven News/Australian Associated Press 9/5/06)
Budget: Salvos back intiatives (SBS 9/5/06)

10 May 2006