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The second pre-budget report of the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee, that was established following agreement between the Albanese Government and ACT Independent Senator David Pocock, has been handed down today.

With 22 recommendations, the Committee of independent experts echoed many of the same urgent calls from last year’s report urging government to increase income support payments as the current amounts were found to be too low.

Of these recommendations, the committee identifies 5 priorities, the top two being to substantially increase JobSeeker and related working age payments as the increases in last year’s budget were inadequate, and to improve the indexations arrangements and increase the rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA).

Senator Pocock implored the government to put the needs of vulnerable people first in this year’s federal budget and prioritise raising revenue from a fairer taxation system.

“What this expert committee has found is that we have a social safety net that is not keeping people safe,” Senator Pocock said.

“People reliant on income support payments won’t benefit from the tax cuts that the rest of us will receive.

“What the Committee is challenging all of us to do is decide what kind of country we want Australia to be.

“The government talks a lot about not leaving anyone behind - this report and especially the new Economic Inclusion Framework it proposes - gives them a blueprint to achieve this.

“Having our leaders saying we can’t afford to lift people out of poverty while they are still giving 50% capital gains discounts to property investors and refusing to fairly tax companies making multi-billion dollar profits from exploiting our natural resources is unacceptable.

“When there isn’t a single rental property in a nationwide survey that’s considered affordable for someone on youth allowance, we know we are failing our young people.

“When people seeking to flee family and domestic violence can’t find somewhere safe and affordable to live, when they can’t afford the basic life essentials on the single parenting payment while they get on their feet, we know we are failing our communities.

“I thank the committee for their outstanding, deeply considered work. Their consultative approach is evident in the personal stories and feedback littered through the report, ensuring it reflects the lived experience of Australians reliant on our social security system.”

Key findings [emphasis added]:

  • The report finds that indexing to CPI isn’t working.“Despite the $40 base rate increase delivered in last year’s budget, people receiving these payments told the Committee that they regularly go without life’s essentials because they simply can’t afford them...Without change to indexation arrangements, the living standards of recipients…will continue to decline.”

    “Over the past two years many renters have experienced particularly high increases in private rental costs...indexation of this payment [CRA] has not kept pace with the spiralling cost of rents, especially in a housing market with a declining proportion of social housing…” 

  • Noting that the “current employment services system is not fit for purpose and is causing harm” priority recommendation 3 points to the “urgent need to remove automated payments suspensions” and says this is necessary to achieving the goal of “sustained and inclusive full employment.”

    It also calls on government to commit to a full redesign of the mutual obligations and compliance settings, update work credit systems that haven’t been adjusted since 2003 and relax work limit rules.
  • It renews calls to abolish the Activity Test for the Child Care Subsidy in priority recommendation 4 and priority recommendation 5 talks about the need for social and cultural change in how we think about, talk about, and operate the social security system. “Starting with government and social security agencies, leadership is needed to replace ill-informed, negative and discriminatory language and attitudes towards people receiving income support…”

  • There is a welcome focus on the needs of First Nations Peoples, especially when it comes to housing including by better targeting the Housing Australia Future Fund and Social Housing Accelerator.

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