Don't cut essential programs to rebuild QLD: ACOSS


Catholic Social Services Australia has joined a delegation of leading community and welfare groups in urging the Federal Parliament to include them in the decision making process in the response to the reconstruction of devastated communities in Queensland, following the recent floods and Cyclone Yasi.

The Australian Coucil of Social Services (ACOSS) is calling on the Federal Government to focus on cutting costs in the national Budget, such as removing tax breaks and concessions that unfairly benefit higher income earners, instead of cutting essential programs and services.

"It is time for us to re-think our budget priorities," Catholic Social Services Australia National Director Frank Quinlan said.

"We need to find homes for people who don’t have them, whether their homelessness was caused by a flood, a cyclone, unemployment or by shifting economic sands."

ACOSS has warned the Government against any rash move to reduce the disability support benefit as recently flagged in media reports, saying that this would only exacerbate the hardship of people who are already among the most disadvantaged in society.

"Our call for Parliament to act quickly is motivated by the need to ensure that people receive the help they need to rebuild their lives and their communities," ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said.

"The community sector is at the forefront of these disasters - major charities like St Vincent de Paul, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Catholic Social Services Australia, Anglicare and UnitingCare - assisting people on the ground to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

"Given this crucial role these groups are playing, we are clearly an essential part of the solution. We are extremely disappointed to have been left out of the Government’s Flood Taskforce."

Dr Goldie said there is also widespread concern among the groups about the implications of further spending cuts to cover the economic cost of these disasters, especially for the future of essential programs and services.

"We don’t want to see cuts to vital programs in order to deal with unexpected expenditures. People are already under enough stress, and those socially vulnerable or struggling financially should not have to pay to meet the Governments self-imposed fiscal constraints," Dr Goldie said.

"This is the principle reason for ACOSS, as the peak body of the community sector, to support a flood levy. As long as it is progressive and exempts those most disadvantaged in society, ACOSS believes it could have gone even further to cover more of the anticipated cost of the damage so essential programs are not compromised.

"To find savings, the Government should look at cracking down on poorly targeted spending and concessions in the federal Budget."

Catholic Social Services Australia provides services to over a million Australians each year through its 69 member agencies (including CatholicCare Social Services - Diocese of Parramatta) in remote, regional and metropolitan Australia.


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