The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) shares the hope of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) in welcoming the opportunities for change presented by the incoming Labor Government.
The new government has a renewed mandate to address the community’s major concerns and reduce income inequality, solve the housing crisis, take action on climate change, meaningfully support self-determination of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples, and do away with unaffordable tax cuts.
The ACT community sector has consistently advocated on each of these issues and calls for change have been clearly reflected by voters preferencing parties and Independents with progressive social policies.
ACOSS CEO, Dr Cassandra Goldie said, “This election result represents a powerful message from the community that we reject fear, abuse of government power, misogyny, racism and neglect.
“Last night’s result is a clear call to action for the Albanese Government to create a more equal community and forge a resilient and brighter future for this and the next generation. With his strong commitment to leave no-one behind, we look forward to working with all those elected to deliver on lifting income supports and wages so people can live with dignity, afford a decent place to call home, get decent employment and work together to tackle climate change, across sectors and regions, towards a brighter future,” Dr Goldie said.
All three ACT electorates have showed support for policies reflecting the prioritisation of the human rights of all members of the community. Climate action, implementation of the Uluru Statement, increased housing provision, income support, and gender equality were core issues to Canberrans in this election.
ACTCOSS Acting CEO, Mr Adam Poulter said, “The pressures of the pandemic, bushfires, and the exponentially increasing cost of living have left many Canberrans exposed to these harsh effects and exacerbated their existing vulnerabilities.
“The new Government has the opportunity to improve the quality of life for all in the ACT and Australia more broadly by ensuring that no-one is left behind, and that all community members can contribute equitably to society and the economy.”
ACTCOSS calls on the Australian Government to increase the base rate of JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and other income support payments from $46 to at least $70/day to lift those requiring income support payments out of poverty and provide a decent safety net.
With acute housing stress, soaring rents and exceedingly long wait times for social housing, the incoming Labor Government must rapidly work with the Territory Government and all ACT’s elected representatives to boost the stock of social and affordable rentals. Modelling by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) has found that the ACT has a current shortfall of 3,100 social housing and 3,400 affordable rental dwellings.
Mr Poulter commented, “The Government urgently needs to rescind unaffordable tax cuts for those on higher incomes and reinvest these funds in public services and support for the people who have the least. Appropriate investment in housing and income support will lead us towards a fairer, more equitable and brighter future for Australia. We need a government that raises the resources needed to meet the big challenges and properly fund essential services and income supports rather than cutting them back.
“Many low-income Canberrans are getting sick or dying because the energy efficiency of many ACT homes is so poor, making energy bills unaffordable and leaving people unable to regulate the temperature of their homes. We need the new Federal Government to commit to a fair, inclusive plan to address climate change and improve the lives of people facing disadvantage.
“We are pleased to see a commitment to the Uluru Statement of the Heart from the new Prime Minister. However, to begin to address the deep and ongoing wrongs inflicted against First Nations people we need additional national commitments to Closing the Gap, raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14, and all recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
Mr Poulter continued: “ACTCOSS’s members are largely community organisations that serve as the first port of call for people in times of greatest need, including those escaping domestic violence, facing homeless or struggling with their mental health.
“To enable the community sector to continue operating and providing services to vulnerable groups, we need the government to demonstrate that they value the sector through appropriate resourcing. The community sector requires adequate federal funding to fairly renumerate the workforce – at regularly indexed rates – in order to provide services for aged care, disability, homelessness, and domestic violence crisis.” said Mr Poulter.
ACTCOSS supports ACOSS’s seven steps for the Federal Government to face the challenges ahead, which can be read in further detail here.
Mr Poulter concluded, “We look forward to seeing a more just, safe, and sustainable community in which everyone has the opportunity for self-determination and a fair share of resources and services. Voters in the ACT have prioritised equality, fairness and social progress, and will surely hold the new government accountable in delivering these values.”