Following a number of teasers and snippets into the different areas the Morrison government is prioritising, the Federal Budget reveal has been revealed. And reactions across different sectors and groups are varied.
As the country rebounds from the pandemic, this budget marked big spendings by the government to get the economy back on track. But are the measures enough to adequately address the needs of all Australians?
Here’s what advocacy groups and purpose-driven leaders have to say.
Short sightedness leaves women vulnerable
Amy Nguyen, Co-Founder at Zen Tea Lounge Foundation, a not-for-profit working to eliminate domestic violence in Australia, says “whilst it’s great to see an acknowledgement of the urgent need to invest in domestic violence prevention, what the government has outlined is still not nearly enough to cover the breadth of services required both in the short and long-term to support victims and end domestic violence in our community. Victims of domestic violence are estimated to cost the NSW economy more than $4.5 billion each year. It is a no-brainer that the government would be better placed to spend more of its tax dollars on prevention than it does providing a band-aid solution.
What we are really missing in this package is a focus on long-term outcomes. We know that victims of domestic violence, whether that be men, women or children, triggered by long term abuse and not receiving appropriate support are likely to become a perpetrator of violence themselves. At Zen Tea Lounge Foundation we are committed to eliminating domestic violence through victim programmes that focus on personal growth, including emotional intelligence and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programmes, along with work-readiness courses. It is only by building back up victims of domestic violence through initiatives to support mental health and self-improvement that we can really begin to bring an end to a deadly issue that is impacting 1 in 3 Australian women.”
Migrants and refugees deserve more support from our Government
Marjorie Tenchavez, Founder and Director of Welcome Merchant, believes the government should do more to recognise and support our diverse SMB sector. She says, “It’s great to see the government recognising the significant impact small businesses make on the health of our economy by extending the ‘Go Local First’ initiative and campaign. However, we need to ensure the true diversity of our small business sector is both represented and supported through these initiatives.”
“We need more diverse local business owners featured throughout the campaign, and the government should ensure the website is translated into a range of community languages to enable migrant, refugee, and asylum seeker business owners to also partake and benefit from the initiative.”
Empowering the migrants we have and bringing in stranded refugees also must be higher on the government’s agenda. Tencheva says, “there should be increased or extended support for newly arrived migrants, many of whom have struggled to find employment due to lack of local work experience and connections. Meanwhile, we continue to hear of many employers who are ‘desperate’ for overseas talent, and need to make a more conscious effort to bridge this gap in supply and demand by tapping into the migrant talent already onshore, keen to work, and have been given permanent residencies to address our skills shortages.”
“On the other hand, for the thousands of refugee protection visa applications yet to be processed, the government needs to find ways to drastically improve the efficiency and speed of this process, so that the many asylum seekers currently waiting for a green light can make a real start on rebuilding their lives, contributing to the local economy, and enriching our communities.”
Racism and far-right extremism ignored by the government
Priscilla Brice, Managing Director at All Together Now, says “we’ve seen time and time again, the government has failed to prioritise investing in programs to combat racism and far-right extremism in our communities.
“A study found racial discrimination cost the Australian economy an estimated $44.9 billion, or 3.6 per cent of GDP, each year in the decade from 2001-11, and despite our best efforts, this figure has likely risen in the meantime. For over a year we have asked the government to fund a national anti-racism strategy and public education program. With the media playing a critical role in public perceptions towards race, we’ve also requested funding towards training for journalists, producers, presenters, journalism students and educators to challenge racism and respectfully report on diverse communities and issues.
“It is disappointing to see such a critical issue that poses a genuine risk to Australian lives overlooked by our government. In the past year, we’ve seen race-related conspiracy theories run rampant and hate towards the Asian community rise exponentially, with The Asian Australian Alliance reporting an average of 47 racist incidents per week between April to June 2020. Given that racism can lead to mental and physical health issues, it is vital the Australian Government acts now to prevent further emotional abuse and subsequent long-term costs for our health sector.”
Federal Budget shortchanges Australians with disability and their carers
Gregory Rohan, Solicitor and Director at Immigration Advice and Rights Centre (IARC) says, “Tuesday’s Federal Budget was a missed opportunity to fix Australia’s broken family migration system and alleviate the pressure on some of the most disadvantaged members of our community.
Despite overall net migration being expected to be negative for the second successive year, the Federal Government has frozen the migration program, including the ceiling on the number of family visas it will grant over the next year, at 2020-21 levels.
While the continued focus on reducing the backlog of Partner visas is welcome, the freezing of other visas within the family stream means that people will continue to wait years – in some cases decades – to be reunited with family.
The cap on Carer visas is particularly harsh. In the next 12 months, less than 500 Carer visas will be issued. This means that Australian citizens and permanent residents with disabilities or serious medical conditions must continue to wait more than four years for a family member to be granted a visa to care for them, despite being required to demonstrate that they need the help now.
People with disability and their carers will also be disproportionately affected by plans to extend the Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period to all social security payments and all permanent residents.
Currently, Carer visa holders are exempt from waiting periods for the Carer Payment and Carer Allowance. This recognises that Carer visa holders are migrating to Australia to care for a loved one and that those responsibilities may limit their ability to work. Under the measures announced on Tuesday, carers will be subject to a four-year waiting period before they are eligible for financial support.
Australians with disability deserve to be cared for at home according to their choice. The measures announced in this budget only make that harder and will compound the significant distress and hardship that people with disability face when engaging with our immigration system.”
The complex needs of marginalised young people unaddressed
Mary Malak, CEO of Humanity Matters, who has advocated for young people for over 30 years, says the budget “focuses too heavily on vocational training programs for young people while neglecting the other hardships they are challenged with beyond unemployment.”
“While it is great to see the government recognise that unemployment is a prevalent and dire situation for many young people, this is only a fraction of the problem. The retraining programs are absolutely a positive first step, but complementary measures that actually guarantee job availability and assist with financial security for young people are just as important.”
“We want to see the government do more to holistically support young people get back on their feet. We commend that the budget includes measures focused on mental health programs and want to see similar measures for other issues that impact our youth like domestic violence, insecure housing, living below the poverty line.. The list goes on. We urge the government to look into the matter more deeply and recognise the complex underlying issues beyond a skills gap that can get in the way of employment for young people.”
The government also announced that private schools will pocket an extra $1.7 billion in federal grants next financial year, with their funding growing twice as fast as funding for public schools. Malak says this is a huge oversight and the focus should be redirected to supporting public schools and disadvantaged groups who need it most.
“Most of the young people we work with are from low socio-economic backgrounds, living in public housing and from families under pressure with complex issues tend to go to public schools. These schools are so stretched just accommodating to the majority of their student populations that those young people with issues at home and higher support needs tend to just fall out of the mainstream education system.”
Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities and currently works at Redkite, a childhood cancer charity.