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Budget Speech - Sue Bradford

13 June 2001

How To Really Protect Us In Old Age Budget Speech - Sue Bradford

Mr Speaker,

As I listened to Dr Cullen read the Budget a couple of weeks ago, I kept looking for the heart, looking for the answer to questions like:

'Where are the jobs for the particularly disadvantaged unemployed?'

'Why is the Budget predicting that there will be 25,000 more working age beneficiaries by 2005, taking the total to 382,000 people?'

'What is the Government doing for the third of the country's children who still live in poverty, whether their parents are in work or out of it?'

'What's changed for people with mental illness or physical disability, or both, who can find neither the dignity of work nor the safety of adequate and appropriate accommodation?'

I know these are big questions requiring fiscal as well as policy answers, but at the same time I look at the Government's commitment to an expenditure of $600 million dollars in this year alone, rising to billions in the next few years, to plough into Dr Cullen's super fund.

To me this Budget simply cements in a new tranche of intergenerational inequity, by which the same generation which has benefited from early years of full employment, free education, capitalisation of the family benefit and many other advantages is now claiming yet another heap of resources for a theoretical security in old age.

I ask those who support the super prefund to consider whether we might all be more secure in the longterm if everyone who wanted a job could get one, and if all children lived in homes where there was food on the table three times a day, and a decent family holiday wasn't something you could only dream about.

I hasten to add that in criticising the super fund, I am not condoning in any way a withdrawal of support for universal superannuation at its current levels - this absolutely must be maintained. However, the Green Party would rather that this and future Governments look holistically at how as a society we use what resources we do have, and begin to again make decisions based on economic and social justice for all segments of society -not just one part of it.

With only a small amount of time at my disposal today, I will take the liberty of mentioning just a few of the many things that I believe this Government could and should have done in this mid term Budget.

Firstly, the Emergency Unemployment Benefit could have been restored for tertiary students genuinely unemployed over summer. At around 17 or 18 million dollars in this financial year, I think this would have been a small price to pay for restoring one element of fairness to begin to make up for all that has been lost by students in this generation.

Secondly, as the Government knows from the recently released report of the Voluntary Sector Working Group, the community sector is still suffering deeply from years of chronic underfunding and disrespect. While there are some good small-scale third sector initiatives in this Budget, including the Green Party's very own pilot Community Internship programme, I believe that if the Government could have found the capacity to implement the Working Party recommendation to double COGS funding, this would have done more for the sector and for rebuilding trust in Government than many other scattered initiatives.

And while Minister Maharey assured this House yesterday that COGS funding has not actually been cut in the Budget, as first appeared to be the case, I call on the Government to show the many groups who are still struggling for survival which particular new programmes are actually going to help them get through yet another year of chronic under resourcing.

And thirdly, in the area of support for children and families, the Budget really focuses on the bottom of the cliff stuff. While it is absolutely essential that the reform of CYFS is carried out as quickly and as well as possible, as a society we should also be looking at what more we can do to to support children before neglect and abuse sets in.

For just one example, budget tables reveal that family support is projected to change from $910 million to $911 million over the next five years. At the same time nominal GDP is expected to rise by 26%. Superannuation and other benefits have allowances built in for rises in inflation - why don't we do this for income that affects our children?

I believe that the whole mess around family support, the tax / benefit interface and differential benefit payment rates needs to be sorted out really quickly, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands of people who are still suffering.

The Green Party will be continuing to strongly advocate for a return to principles of universality in the application of all forms of income support, and for much greater attention to be paid for those who find it hardest to speak for themselves - children and youth, unemployed people and those living with mental and physical disability.

We will also continue to work for a society in which full employment is an overarching fiscal and social goal for Government and all other sectors in our community.

That is the real way to protect us in our old age, not gambling money we don't actually have on the vagaries of the transnational marketplace.


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