Our thoughts on the 2021 federal budget: How does this impact our communities?

Every day WIRE speaks to service users who are experiencing family violence, financial stress and homelessness, and who are managing their migration status to gain eligibility for government support. We know we have a limited capacity to only work with a few people at a time, even though so many across Australia are experiencing hardship and trying their best to negotiate and survive many hardships. Looking at the recently announced federal budget for 2021, we first consider how it will enable all people to thrive and how it will reduce the injustice and harm that impact them.

The federal budget provides some much-needed funding to support our communities and finally address yawning gaps in our social infrastructure, such as aged care, childcare, mental health and family violence services. One of the wins include the government’s decision to scrap the $450 per month threshold to pay compulsory super—this threshold caused almost twice as many women than men to miss out on super contributions when working in insecure, part-time jobs. Compulsory employer super contributions will now increase to 12 per cent and employers must pay super, even to part-time workers.

However, the budget has still failed to deliver in several important areas. The budget failed to increase social security payments above the poverty line as well as the JobSeeker unemployment benefit. Instead, the government introduced a scheme to withhold income support to newly arrived migrants in Australia. New migrants will also have to wait four years before they can access any government benefits. This cost-cutting measure will apply to migrants granted residency from 1 January 2022, affecting 13,200 future migrants and 45,000 families—carers and parents will be hit the hardest. Once again, it’s new Australians that are taking the brunt of government cutbacks—people that often have no financial buffer and little support.

We welcome the increased funding to address gendered violence, a significant improvement compared to previous funding levels; however, $1.1bn is still nowhere near enough to address violence against women and close the gaps in current available services. This funding indicates the government’s down payment on the National Plan and we’re expecting increased funding commitments as the plan develops. The budget’s lack of investment in social housing is also disappointing, especially as older women are the fastest growing group of people facing homelessness.

Overall, the 2021 federal budget demonstrates significant progress compared to the last October budget in 2020. The government has produced a Women’s Budget Statement for the first time in many years, but it lacks an in-depth gender analysis. However, new migrants have once again been further removed from the government welfare net that most Australians can access. The budget also falls short of a Gender Equal Recovery and targeted gender investments are still less than 1% of total investment. There are definitely some positives, but it’s not a budget for all people. In the future, we hope to see better commitments to gender equity and social infrastructure.

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