Surplus worship

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Anglicare's budget press release

Moving the Budget into Surplus appears economically responsible but is achieved at too high a cost – it is punishing on the very poor and marginalised, particularly young, single mothers.

No Surplus is worth this. No Surplus should ever be achieved by denying the poor opportunity while at the same time handing out cash to middle income families.

But the Budget does precisely this because it is less about good Government and more about staying in Government.

The biggest issue in my opinion is the fact that single parents who are not working will be moved from the Parenting Payment to Newstart Allowance once their youngest child turns eight.

On the surface this seems like a good move – employment really is the only way to boost household income and provide opportunity for a better future.

Do the numbers and it’s a different picture, and one that I don’t think you would like to feature in.

As a single parent caring full time for your children you would currently receive a Parenting Payment of $324 per week. Once your youngest turns eight, you will be moved to Newstart on about $265 per week.

Moving single parents on to Newstart is a devastating decision because Newstart is far too low for an adequate standard of living.

These payments provide a poor base upon which to help vulnerable households gain stability and develop capacity for the future. They also almost punish single parents who choose to stay home to be a full time carer.

In contrast households earning $85,000 per year will receive over $1600 in cash handouts, plus a tranche of tax breaks.

The value of these sweeteners for middle income earners is about equivalent, if not more expensive than raising Newstart by $50 per week.

Most Sydney Anglicans are comparatively well off and will benefit from these kinds of tax breaks and rebates. But how can we be glad about it when the poor are being squeezed for the sake of trying to keep middle Australia happy?

How can we proclaim a loving and just God yet welcome a Budget that so blatantly plays to the interests of those of us who are comparatively well off?

There are some significant wins like funding to start the National Disability Insurance Scheme and free childcare for single unemployed parents while they pursue education and training, but these programs are only small steps – they have not been funded to the fullest extent and risk being undermined as a result.

Smart policy and good Government is about balancing care for people with stewardship of resources. This Budget achieves neither very well.

The most powerful thing the Church can do is encourage Christians and wider society to look beyond their own interests, as it points to a Saviour who came to seek and save the lost.

Grant Millard is the CEO of ANGLICARE Sydney

Feature photo: Markehr

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