Fighting the shift from services to tax cuts

| April 27, 2018

The Australian Council of Social Service is disappointed the Government has dropped its Medicare Levy increase to help fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Everyone who can afford to do so should contribute to essential services like the NDIS, and securing the revenue to guarantee essential services like the NDIS should be a bipartisan commitment. Unfortunately that didn’t happen.

Along with People with Disability Australia and the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, we called last year for the government to adjust the Medicare Levy to ensure that people with higher incomes contributed their fair share.

Everyone with the capacity to pay should contribute to the cost of this and other essential services, including those who use tax shelters to avoid income tax.

The decision to drop the Levy increase reinforces growing concerns about the quality and certainty of services people receive from the NDIS.

We understand that in many cases ‘second round’ service offers are inferior to those offered in the first round, and disability services report that funding is often too low to assure quality. People with disabilities should receive the best possible service, not the second best because corners are being cut on NDIS funding.

More broadly, this decision on the Levy signals a worrying direction in budget policy away from strengthening revenue to restore the budget and guaranteeing essential services towards clearing the ground for more tax cuts that we simply cannot afford.

No-one should forget that the Government has already cut billions out of social security and services to the community, and billions more are in the budget pipeline.

The cuts include cuts to payments for unemployed people, low-income families, pensioners and new migrants; and to hospital funding, Medicare rebates, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community services and community legal centres. The Government has also failed to increase the woefully low Newstart payment level.

We’ve seen just a glimmer of sunshine in the budget and already the government is reportedly considering locking in a decade of tax cuts. This would not only be risky for the budget. It would be unconscionable as long as those spending cuts stand, and people on the lowest incomes, including over 730 000 children, continue to go without food, or secure housing.

We’ve been there before when the budget proceeds of the mining boom were squandered on eight successive tax cuts, and we must not make the same mistake again.