Federal Budget slammed for neglecting Australians on low incomes

April 3, 2019

Australia’s leading association of human rights lawyers has expressed extreme disappointment with the Federal Government’s limited commitment to supporting people on low incomes in last night’s Federal Budget.

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) says the only positive in the Budget is a one-off payment designed to assist with rising energy costs. However, Charlie Faulder, Chair of ALHR’s Economic, Cultural and Social Rights Committee notes, “Ironically, those on the lowest Centrelink payments are ineligible for this meagre and tokenistic offering.” ($75 for singles and $125 for couples. This includes those in receipt of Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance, Austudy and Abstudy).

Ms Faulder continued, “ALHR notes the Federal Government has again failed to address the issue of raising the rate of Newstart Allowance and similar payments. People on Newstart receive a meagre $40 per day. More than half (55%) of the people on Newstart live below the poverty line. With the most onerous reporting requirements, and insufficient jobs to meet the demand, recipients of Newstart are forced into poverty. They lack the money for adequate food, clothing, medical needs and housing in the private rental market. Combined with a chronic shortage of affordable housing, the most vulnerable members of our society have, once again, been cast aside by the Federal Government.”

“Australia is a party to the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and has therefore recognised the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The Federal Government is legally obliged to take appropriate steps to ensure the realisation of this right. It is failing to do so.”

“ALHR supports the Raise the Rate campaign and calls on the Federal Government to immediately address the issue noting that tax cuts promised to higher income earners may come at the expense of adequate funding for essential services and other measures that are designed to assist the most disadvantaged. This will only compound the problems faced by those the federal government has a responsibility to assist.”

Contact: Matt Mitchell, ALHR media manager 0431 980 365.

ALHR was established in 1993 and is a national association of Australian solicitors, barristers, academics, judicial officers and law students who practise and promote international human rights law in Australia. ALHR has active and engaged National, State and Territory committees and specialist thematic committees. Through advocacy, media engagement, education, networking, research and training, ALHR promotes, practices and protects universally accepted standards of human rights throughout Australia and overseas.