Cuts leave asylum seekers ‘at risk’

newsThousands of people seeking protection while living in the Australian community are at risk of destitution and homelessness due to the latest government move to completely cut income support for people who need it the most.

The federal government is planning to make cuts to the Status Resolution Support Service (SRSS) program that provides a basic living allowance (typically 89% of Newstart allowance, equating to just $247 per week), casework support, assistance in finding housing, and access to torture and trauma counselling. People waiting for a decision about their claim for protection receive these supports.

An alliance of close to 100 civil society organisations, including the Refugee Council of Australia and Australian Council of Social Service is calling on the government to urgently reverse their position to cut income support for people seeking asylum from 1 April 2018.

Paul Power, CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia, says the government has already heavily cut income and other supports to people who are rebuilding their lives in Australia.

“People who would be affected include fathers, mothers, young people and children who are part of our schools, our workplaces, and our communities,” said Mr Power.
“Many still have years before a decision will be known on their status. What are they to do in the meantime without any income?

“The government needs to take a step back and remember for a second that we are talking about people – people who have escaped war and risked death by traveling the long treacherous journey to Australia via long stays in places where they were given no status or protection and often ended up in detention centres. They are men, women and children who are traumatised and stateless. Many remain fearful of returning to their countries and cling to hope in Australia.

“It is absolutely clear people who have already faced terrible trauma in their lives will, in Australia, be forced into homelessness if they don’t have any income support.
“These cuts are terribly short-sighted. This is not a budget saving measure, it is a budget shirking.”

Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS, says parents seeking protection are already skipping meals to pay for their children’s medication and food.

“It is appalling the government is wanting to cut people off income support entirely. What are people meant to do with no income at all? How can they feed and get their children to school?” says Dr Goldie.

“People will become homeless, their health will suffer and they will be unable to feed themselves. As a country, do we think it is acceptable that children go without meals, education, and a roof over their head?

“$247 per week is so little to live on. It is outrageous the government is even considering cutting this payment entirely.

“People living in Australia, including people seeking asylum, have the right to access Australia’s social safety net if they need it. That’s why it’s there. For when people need it.”

Mr Power says the cuts will put a huge amount of pressure on local communities, local councils, state and territory governments, and charities.

“After four years of social security policy changes cutting the incomes of people already vulnerable, community organisations, church groups and individuals trying to help people facing destitution are already exhausted and overstretched.

“People and families living without any income support will mean these organisations and individuals will be in overdrive trying to avoid people and families falling into destitution.

“Various schemes assisting people while they wait for a decision on their status determination have existed with bipartisan support for years.

“We call on the federal government to retain the SRSS scheme for all people seeking protection in Australia.”


The truth about ending cash refunds for imputation credits

Unfortunately, since its announcement, there has been much misinformation about Labor’s policy to end cash refunds for imputation credits. This policy will only affect people who receive cash tax refunds i.e. taxpayer funds after they have paid no income tax in that financial year.

It is important to note that under Labor’s proposed policy:-
• No one will pay a single cent more tax;
• No one will lose a single cent from their superannuation contributions;
• No one will lose a single cent from their pension;
• No one will lose a single cent from their share dividends;
• It is not retrospective – it will only apply from 1 July 2019; and
• Everyone who gets share dividends can still use the system to reduce their tax bill but they won’t be able to get a tax refund if they have paid no income tax.

Imputation credits were implemented by the Hawke Government in 1987. The purpose was to stop tax being paid twice on company profits: once by the company and again by the shareholder on the dividends. Labor continues to support this policy and it won’t change.

The problem emerged when the Howard Government changed the rules to allow shareholders who paid no tax to get a cash refund from imputation credits. This has caused a fiscal time bomb that we can no longer afford. Within the next few years, it will be costing $8 billion a year – more than we spend on public schools or child care, and three times what we spend on the Australian Federal Police.

This is an unaffordable tax concession that 92 per cent of Australians do not use.

Overwhelmingly the benefits of this concession go to wealthy Australians that are using self-managed superannuation funds. Half of the cash refunds go to self-managed superannuation funds with balances of more than $2.4 million. Some funds are paying no tax and collecting a $2.5 million cheque from the tax office each year.

I understand that there will be a small number of people who are affected by this policy that do not fit into the categories mentioned above. The policy has been put forward well in advance of an election so that people can understand the impact on their individual circumstances and will have time to adjust their investments to negate any change. Labor will always look after pensioners and, no doubt, Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen will have more to say about that down the track.

If you are a Moreton resident and would like to talk to me about this policy please call my office on (07) 3344 2622 and I will return your call as soon as I can.

Graham_Perrett 2Graham Perrett – Federal Member for Moreton