Media Release

17 December 2013
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Australia can have an economy to serve and sustain all
Government, the community sector and business all have important roles to play in ensuring all Australians have the means and opportunity for a decent life, supported by a healthy economy, UnitingCare Australia National Director Lin Hatfield Dodds says. “We are a prosperous nation. And yet we continue to have pockets of entrenched disadvantage, some of which are growing. Australia can do better than this – by addressing revenue as well as Government spending,” Ms Hatfield Dodds said, responding to the release today of the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook. “Current policy debate is thin, impoverishing us all. Decision makers and many commentators are often locked into rhetoric about debt and deficit when we could be having smart, evidence-based debates about effective public policy and improving the quality of life of all Australians. “Government revenue growth has been reduced because of structural changes to the revenue base, reduced tax rates and the residual impacts of the global financial crisis. Now slower economic growth is projected to see rising unemployment and economic stress. “Successive governments have struggled to align social and economic goals. Achieving a better balance will require collecting more tax, and could be achieved by winding back inefficient and unfair tax concessions. “Paying for what we value would involve lifting tax as a share of GDP to 24-25% on average over the business cycle. Tax is the price we pay for a decent society.” GOVERNMENT, COMMUNITY SECTOR AND BUSINESS “There is growing recognition of the complementary roles of government, the community sector and business,” Ms Hatfield Dodds said. UnitingCare Australia, an agency of the Uniting Church, is one of the largest providers of social services in Australia, via a network that employs 35,000 staff, supported by 24,000 volunteers, to one in eight Australians each year in every state and territory in 1,300 sites across remote, regional, rural, and urban Australia.

The National Body for Social Services in the Uniting Church in Australia supporting service delivery and advocacy for children, young people, families, people with disabilities and older people

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“Community organisations can deliver people-centred services and care in ways that government agencies cannot. Governments need to support innovation and provide resources. Businesses should provide employment and create wealth, and enhance the social and environmental health of the communities on which they depend. “People are Australia’s greatest asset,” Ms Hatfield Dodds said. “But just when we should be increasing our investment in empowering disadvantaged groups to participate in work and social life, the popular preoccupation with debt and deficit risks tilting policy away from providing much needed support for the long-term unemployed, and other disadvantaged and vulnerable people.” A DECENT LIFE FOR ALL “Prevention is cheaper and more effective than attempting to patch up the negative r esults of failing to act early,” Ms Hatfield Dodds said. “For example, the evidence is overwhelming that supporting good nutrition and appropriate care in the first five years of life can transform outcomes over the entire life course. Addressing locational disadvantage promotes workforce participation, builds community, and reduces costly antisocial behaviours. “A range of valuable services can only be delivered effectively with government support, particularly where providing a decent life for all requires universal access to services such as education and essential health care. Australia currently underinvests in these, undermining overall living standards and excluding those who are already vulnerable and disadvantaged. ” “Australia can boost productivity and economic growth, as well as delivering a more inclusive society where everyone gets a fair go. Australia can be a place where everyone belongs, participates and contributes,” Ms Hatfield Dodds said. “All sectors must work together to achieve a decent life for all.” ENDS

Contact: Marion Rae, Director of Communications & Gov’t Relations, 02 6249 6717/0455 851 139