Daily News - Thursday 4 December 2014

Posted 4 December 2014 7:51am

Budget making life harder for poorest Australians - report
Scott Hannaford, The Canberra Times

Several of the federal government's key budget measures will exacerbate income inequity and poverty in Australia and should not proceed, according to a parliamentary inquiry into the gap between rich and poor.

The Senate Community Affairs and References Committee inquiry into the extent of income inequity in Australia released on Wednesday night found the income gap in Australia has grown since the mid-1980s, and far too many vulnerable Australians were being left below the poverty line. At the same time the richest 1 per cent of Australians had nearly doubled their share of the income pie from 5 per cent of all earnings to 9 per cent.


One-on-one approach can reconnect people with opportunity, says Rachel Siewert
Rachel Siewert, media release

"The evidence presented to the Committee has found that an individualised, one-on-one approach can achieve significant success in reconnecting people with education, training and employment opportunities. This is at odds with the approach being taken by the Government through the budget, as they seek to cut payments and our social safety net.

"Programs and policies based on case management, personal connections, support and mentorship offer far greater potential for helping people into work and out of poverty. This is the path the Government should be taking.


Federal budget to exacerbate poverty: Senate report
Patricia Karvelas, The Australian ($)

The report has found that the Newstart payment is too low. The income of a single, adult Newstart recipient is now more than $100 per week below the Henderson poverty line.


Report: Bridging our growing divide: inequality in Australia: The extent of income inequality in Australia
Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs

UnitingCare Australia, The Salvation Army, Anglicare Australia, Catholic Social Services Australia and Baptcare Australia all support a benchmarking process to set adequate minimum payment levels for social security benefits in Australia. The committee agrees that this approach is necessary.


UK - Poverty is at its most deadly when it becomes normal
Ally Fogg, The Guardian

Scouring the press releases sent out by the Labour party in the past week, it is all but impossible to find mention of poverty, inequality, homelessness or hunger. Instead, there are countless volleys in the race to the bottom over immigration and benefit claims. Notwithstanding the efforts of the Green party, mainstream political debate refuses to countenance such issues as a living wage.

It seems we have drifted to being a nation of coarse indifference – or perhaps defeatism – to the bleak reality of poverty.


Swinburne and Kildonan UnitingCare partner to tackle financial hardship
Swinburne University, media release

The Centre for Social Impact (CSI) Swinburne has been commissioned by Kildonan UnitingCare to develop and implement the evaluation framework for an innovative response to tackle financial hardship.

Partnering with a range of businesses, community agencies, the state government and Swinburne University of Technology, CareRing involves Kildonan UnitingCare working directly with businesses to identify vulnerable customers at the earliest stages of financial stress.

This Australian-first project aims to ‘triage’ financial issues and facilitate debt relief and payment plans, while also screening for co-occuring issues that could be contributing to or compounding problems.


lnvest in Capacity Instead of ‘Throwing Darts’
Pro Bono News

Funders and beneficiaries should cease “throwing darts” at one another and focus on investing in the capacity of Not for Profits to measure social outcomes, a Sydney impact measurement conference has been told.

The panel discussion at the Think Outcomes event featured Michael Traill AM, the former CEO of Social Ventures Australia, Sam Sayers, Director of the ten20 Foundation, Tony Abrahams, CEO of closed captioning service Ai-Media, and Lisa Wade, Head of Community Assets at Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.

“We do have a community where I think many think sometimes this debate gets stuck in silos,” facilitator Traill said.

“Not for Profits are throwing darts at funders because the funders are miserable and they don’t get the pain of the Not for Profits, the funders sometimes in their own dysfunctional way are not actually listening to where the funding requirements for growth and capacity are.”


NDIS full launch to be nutted out in 2015
Rashida Yosufzai, The Age

New participants and sites for the full roll-out of the national disability insurance scheme are set to be finalised by the middle of next year.

The federal government will soon start negotiations on new agreements with the states guiding the full launch of the landmark scheme, which is expected by 2019.

It's understood the agreements will detail how new sites across the country will transition into the scheme and the number of new people able to participate.


NDIS and technology prove a life-changer for Tasmanian teenager
Mark Reddie, ABC

Tasmanians say assistive technology and the National Disability Insurance Scheme are vastly improving lives across the state.

The success was celebrated today as part of International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Harry Bolch, 16, is among hundreds of Tasmanians signed up to the NDIS.


Indigenous Australians can take pride in disability policy gains
John Gilroy and Nicholas Biddle, The Conversation

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPWD), December 3, is important for commemorating the successes and efforts of the disability rights movement. The theme this year is Sustainable Development.

Along with other Indigenous peoples worldwide, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have much to celebrate. At the same time, the Australian disability services sector is undergoing its most significant reform since the Disability Services Act 1986. The inception of the National Disability Insurance Scheme has been justifiably described as the biggest public policy reform since the introduction of Medicare in the 1980s.

While many challenges remain, we do have reasons to celebrate.


More than 16,000 on Disability Support Pension can work, figures show
Daniel Meers, The Daily Telegraph

More than 16,000 Disability Support Pension recipients have been identified as having the ability to work and more than 8000 have been told to go and find a job.

The Daily Telegraph has obtained the figures since ­Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews ordered a review of every DSP recipient aged under 35 in July.

Since the review, 16,547 people claiming the DSP have signed a ­participation plan, which ­includes a compulsory work-related component to prepare them for a job, and 8048 have been sent to employment ­services to get ­a job.


The poor old taxpayer has to foot the bill
Editorial, The Daily Telegraph

The likelihood of widespread welfare fraud in Australia is made clear by certain individual cases now coming to light. They clearly demonstrate how low the bar was for disability pension qualification over previous decades, and the degree of inadequacy of the monitoring of claimants.

Ali Mahmood is an especially noteworthy example. Having ­arrived in Australia in 2003 on a humanitarian visa, Mahmood began receiving welfare payments just one month later, and continued living off taxpayers for the best part of 10 years until authorities cut him off.


Tony Abbott’s PPL under the microscope in childcare overhaul
David Crowe, The Australian ($)

A looming overhaul of childcare funding will be used to reshape Tony Abbott’s controversial paid parental leave scheme, as ministers review flagship policies in response to a sinking budget outlook.

The government has begun work on changes to the Prime Minister’s signature PPL policy to cut its cost and fend off accusations it is too generous at a time of deepening federal deficits. The Australian has learned that amendments to the PPL scheme are on the agenda in internal discussions on a new childcare policy to be outlined early next year.


Report - How integrated are homelessness, mental health and drug and alcohol services in Australia?
Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI)

A successful and apparently effective avenue for integration has come through agencies themselves expanding the range of services they provide, so that integrated responses may come from within, rather than from other agencies. Furthermore, a majority of services have developed close collaborative relationships with at least one other service and so bottom-up approaches are flourishing. Services, therefore, should be supported in the method that suits their particular situation best, and not supplanted by rigid, externally-imposed programs of integration.


Report - Addressing concentrations of disadvantage—Emerton/Mount Druitt case study report
Hal Pawson and Gethin Davison, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI)

The main objectives of the case study work were to better understand the experience of living in a ‘disadvantaged area’, to explore the pros and cons of their local area from the resident perspective and to investigate the role that housing, planning and associated interventions may play in either exacerbating or tackling local problems.


Christmas hampers delivered to farming families in drought-stricken outback Queensland
Chrissy Arthur, ABC

Hundreds of children and families in drought-affected outback Queensland have begun receiving a little Christmas cheer with the first deliveries of donated festive hampers.


Rush is on for drought relief package
Colin Bettles, The Land

A government announcement about the new $100 million assistance package to help drought affected farmers in Queensland and NSW is imminent.

It’s understood the government’s Expenditure Review Committee met this week and has approved terms for a package of low interest concessional loans of up to $1 million at an interest rate of 3.21 per cent over a 10-year period.

A government source said the terms of the package are designed to support those farmers in parts of Qld and NSW suffering 1 in 100-year and 1 in 50-year drought events.


Insuring crops against natural disasters touted as better than ad hoc drought support
Sarina Locke, ABC

It's extraordinary that, in a country with floods and droughts, there has been no insurance for farmers to protect their investment.

Now for the first time there is a trial of a multi-peril crop insurance, but only one product is available.

In its first year, the insurance company will be tested, with one of the worst grain years in the eastern states.

There's now a push to replace the flawed drought assistance with this type of working capital insurance.


Community and business come together to call for tax reform
ACOSS, media release

Representatives from business and community sectors have begun a dialogue about tax reform to explore areas of agreement and disagreement ahead of the Government's tax review next year.

"If we are to effect meaningful tax reform in Australia and encourage inclusive growth that benefits both business and the community, we need to present a case for change," said Tom Pockett, Chairman of the Business Coalition for Tax Reform (BCTR).

Members of the BCTR, which brings together a range of business groups covering the broad spectrum of the Australian business community, are meeting with members of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), representing community organisations and people on low incomes, in Sydney on Monday 15 December.

"The current tax system is not delivering the revenue we need to provide the services and supports we will all need into the future. Reform is necessary to ensure access to ensure equitable access to housing, education, secure jobs and income support," said Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS.


Tax system stuck in the ’50s: Treasury
Patrick Durkin, Australian Financial Review

Outgoing Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson has issued an urgent call for corporate and personal tax cuts, warning that our tax system is stuck in the 1950s and that Australians’ standard of living will collapse without reform.

Dr Parkinson’s comments come ahead of a government paper next week canvassing options for tax reform where “nothing is ruled out”, and follow the release of national account figures on Wednesday which reveal that national income has fallen for the second quarter in a row.


Tax reform could leave some 'worse off'
Trevor Chappell, The West Australian

Australians will have to accept that some people may end up worse off if the federal government pushes ahead with tax reform, Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson says.

Dr Parkinson says various interest groups should consider how the total package of any tax reforms benefits the country and its citizens as a whole rather than focus on the impact of reforms on a particular sector.

"It (tax reform) is almost impossible if people start to say every individual element of the reform package has to be seen as leaving no-one worse off," Dr Parkinson told an Australian British Chamber of Commerce lunch on Wednesday.


Bracks’ federalism agenda: start with health, education
David Donaldson, The Mandarin

The best policy work is being done at the state level, Bracks not surprisingly argues. Bureaucrats there should be allowed to get on with the job.

“I would say that the public service at a state level can be more effective, efficient and innovative and can really lead the way on policy development, which can then be picked up at the national level. That’s what we tried to do in Victoria by employing good quality people, having good quality structures, and therefore those reforms, including COAG Reform Council, came out of those processes,” he said.

“You tend to get a lot of atrophy at a federal level, departments are big, they’re second-guessing what’s happening across the states anyway. They’re not — except for Defence — into service delivery in any big way. So they lose their relevance. I would think you can reform significantly the federal-state arrangements to give more weight to some of the innovation at state level.”


Blame game risks missing a chance to change
Greg Lindsay, Australian Financial Review

When I’m asked about what’s wrong with government, people are expressing their frustrations through the question, and usually complaining that Australians are over-governed. ‘Too many layers’, ‘get rid of the states’, and so on. My standard response is ‘don’t waste your time, it’s not going to happen’. That being the case, what to do?

Well, it looks like Australia is finally having a long overdue debate about reform of the federation and, more importantly, reform of federal-state financial relations. A few green shoots of hope were evident in the Prime Minister’s recent Tenterfield speech.


Abbott's woes through Pope's human values lens
Andrew Hamilton, Eureka Street

Pope Francis’ recent speech to the European parliament provides a useful lens for reflecting on the priorities and policies of the Australian Government, themselves currently the object of introspection and criticism.

The recent dire opinion polls have focused attention on the Government’s performance and on how it may win back public approval. There has been less reflection on the threads that link its policies on welfare, economic management, the environment, asylum seekers and to government regulation.

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