Response to the Federal Budget 2023-2024

11 May 2023
Two hands holding a cardboard house

$20 per week will not lift people out of poverty

Sacred Heart Mission acknowledges the positive measures that support vulnerable people in the 2023-2024 Federal Budget, including a change to the single parent payment, increasing the age of children from eight to 14; Medicare bulk billing, increase in wages for aged care workers and energy relief.

Sacred Heart Mission also welcomes the $4 billion in additional funding for the community services sector, to support us to manage increased demand, higher service delivery costs and wage increases. We look forward to hearing more from the government about the distribution of this funding.

We also welcome the much needed 15% pay increase for aged care workers, who are currently one of the most underpaid and insecure workforces in our community, but also one of the most essential.

“This pay increase recognises the value provided by the aged care industry and its workforce, the majority of whom are women,” says CEO Hang Vo.

“However, we also believe that the Government should look to increase job security, alongside pay, within these professions to meet current and future demand and ensure our elderly community members are well looked after.”

We support improvements to bulk-billing practices, to ensure that more people in our community can access the health care they need without out-of-pocket expenses.

However, we know from within our community that GPs who are effectively equipped to work with people experiencing homelessness and persistent disadvantage are few and far between, and we need to improve health care pathways for people who currently miss out on access to primary care and end up in emergency departments when in crisis.

Sacred Heart Mission is greatly disappointed that the Albanese Government will only increase the JobSeeker and Youth Allowance payments by a measly $20 per week, and for this not to commence until September. A total payment of $731.30 for JobSeeker recipients is still 40% below the poverty line and one of the lowest payments in the OECD. It is also well below the $76 per day that the community, business and union and the Government’s own Economic Inclusion Committee have recommending for over many months, and relief is needed now, not in four months’ time.

While any increase to JobSeeker is welcome and we appreciate that all recipients will receive an increase, we reject the claims made by the Treasurer on Budget night that the $20 per week increase to JobSeeker was “all the government could afford.”

Should the government adopt the recommendations by the Grattan Institute to redesign the Stage 3 tax cuts and retain the 37% tax bracket, this would return approximately $8 billion to the Budget and neutralise the impacts of a meaningful JobSeeker increase.

“Prioritising tax cuts over poverty alleviation is not fairness. It will leave those with the least further behind,” says Hang. 

A higher payment rate for older people on JobSeeker will now apply to those over 55, rather than 60 and receiving the payment for over nine months. While this increase is also welcome, we believe the current employment services system and mutual obligation requirements do not support people who are long-term unemployed, have mental health issues or are experiencing homelessness.

“Continuing to enforce punitive compliance requirements is ineffective and does not actually help disadvantaged jobseekers into work, particularly those with complex needs,” says Hang. The recommendations to improve employment services are clear and available and it is infuriating that the Government has not adopted these.

Sacred Heart Mission will continue to fight for a rate of JobSeeker that will lift recipients out of poverty – it is the right and humane thing to do for our community.

Similarly, the 15% increase to Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) is the first real increase to the payment in over 30 years but will not go far enough to prevent homelessness and housing stress. We know rental prices are rising rapidly, and that there are no properties nationwide that are affordable for someone on JobSeeker or Youth Allowance. The housing crisis is continuing to escalate and will continue to do so without further government intervention.

We are also disappointed that the build-to-rent initiatives announced in the Budget will not boost supply of affordable housing for several years, nor will they increase the supply of public and community housing. This will only grow our social housing waitlists further and will leave more people without a safe place to call home.

The energy bill relief provided for within the Budget, while appreciated by our community, will not do anything to reduce power prices in the long term – these are short-term solutions to a complex problem. The Government is not addressing how to reduce energy costs for consumers in the medium-to-long term or providing incentives to improve energy efficiency for renters and those in social housing who suffer the most from energy poverty.

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