Federal Budget 2022: Long term vision needed for all to flourish
March 30, 2022
The Uniting Church Assembly welcomes a number a short-term measures in the 2022-23 Federal Budget that will make a difference to people’s lives but a longer-term vision is needed to bring about changes that enable all people and all creation to flourish.
Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) President Rev Sharon Hollis has welcomed a number of positive measures, including for refugees and mental health, but noted the missed opportunities to address inequality and invest in a more sustainable future.
“We welcome measures that aim to provide immediate relief for cost of living pressures, but encourage all our major parties ahead of the election to think about the long term solutions that will make Australia a more just, compassionate and sustainable nation.”
In responding to refugees and people seeking protection, the UCA welcomes the additional 16,500 humanitarian places for Afghan nationals over the next four years. This is a significant commitment following advocacy from the Afghan community and many others including the Uniting Church.
It will create more opportunity for the resettlement of refugees displaced by persecution in other countries including Myanmar, Syria, and South Sudan. Also welcome, is support for displaced Ukrainian people arriving in Australia. However, the Government continues to direct funding to offshore processing with $482.5 million allocated for its offshore processing policy in 2022-23.
“We continue to be deeply concerned that significant funding is still directed to offshore processing of refugees which we believe could be much better used in other refugee assistance programs,” said Rev Hollis.
In regard to climate, whilst the budget contains a number of initiatives including Great Barrier Reef investments, and investment in hydrogen and low emission technologies, it lacks a comprehensive and cohesive response to address climate change. Just 0.3% of total expenditure for 2021-2024 has been committed to climate change initiatives.
“The need to act decisively and urgently is clear. Australia must reduce emissions sooner and fund a just transition to renewables,” said Rev Hollis.
In responding to the Budget on Tuesday, UnitingCare Australia National Director Claerwen Little said short term cost of living relief was welcome but long terms solutions are needed to tackle inequality.
“We welcome the $1.3billion dollar investment in Women’s Safety, including extending the Escaping Violence Payment,” said Ms Little.
“We acknowledge the additional 15,000 aged care training places but it’s not nearly enough to tackle the workforce shortages. We remain deeply concerned about aged care wages and renew our calls for urgent action.”
UnitingCare Australia has reiterated its key elections asks for a national inquiry on stagnant incomes, Superannuation on Parental Leave Payment and an increase in aged care wages. Read more.
With regard to First Peoples in Australia, the UCA welcomes various measures aimed at Closing the Gap Targets but a longer-term view is needed to bring about generational change.
“We need a systemic and wholistic approach that addresses both the visible gaps and the underlying generational obstacles to equality and equity,” said Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress National Executive Member and Co-Chair of the Uniting First Peoples Network Alison Overeem.
“We urge the government to seek to address the gaps further highlighted during the pandemic and commit to community-led, culturally-safe policies.”
“While it is great to see the government’s commitment to a First Nations representative Voice we reiterate calls for a constitutionally-enshrined First Nations Voice to enable sustainable intergenerational change.”
Frontier Services National Director Jannine Jackson welcomed measures to support Australians living in rural and remote areas, particularly the commitment to bridge gaps in mental health care, infrastructure and disaster assistance.
“The provision of over $245 million to residents in catastrophically impacted areas, along with $300 million allocated to the Emergency Response Fund, will make a meaningful difference in the immediate rebuilding of communities devastated by flooding,” said Ms Jackson.
Frontier Services also welcomed a renewed commitment to mental health in some of the nation’s most isolated areas with a targeted focus on suicide prevention in regional areas. Read more.
UnitingWorld National Director Dr Sureka Goringe welcomed the announcement of $324.4 million over 2 years to support Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste to recover from the impacts of COVID-19 but called for more permanent aid funding growth to replace temporary measures.
“We have seen the impacts of COVID on the communities in our region, on top of recovery from catastrophic disasters and the ongoing impacts of climate change. While we welcome the boost to immediate recovery from COVID, we encourage the Government to commit to increasing our aid investments in the long term.”
The Uniting Church Assembly election resource outlines seven critical issues that Australia must address urgently to build a more just, compassionate and inclusive nation. Read more.