The Australian Greens will move for a Senate Inquiry into Inequality in Australia, as the Government faces growing criticism about the impacts of the budget.
"Despite the Treasurer's claims, the Federal Budget is an attack on Australia's social contract that will increase inequality and deliver cuts to people who are already living in poverty," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on family and community services said today.
"It is clear that Australians are feeling less equal and are not happy with this budget. They know it's not fair. This is reflected by growing criticism from across the community, including the likes of John Hewson, while modelling shows that an unequal amount of the Government's heavy lifting is being done by our poorest people.
"We are expecting more cuts as a result of the secretive McLure Welfare Review.
"Inequality has significant, negative life outcomes and impacts health, housing, education and employment. This leads to increased poverty and disadvantage, which becomes intergenerational and has lifelong effects for children and families.
"Widespread budget cuts will see inequality continue to rise, and our most vulnerable will be the hardest hit. A Senate Inquiry is necessary, given the Government's concerted effort to avoid scrutiny of their budget, policy making and ideology.
"The Welfare Review and Commission of Audit have been closed, secretive processes, and it was clear from Senate Estimates that the Government's own departments are unprepared to roll out their budget measures.
"The Government has no genuine interest in public consultation or working with the community groups and charities who will be left to deal with the effects of these policies.
"They also seem intent on limiting debate and discussion about this budget. They are moving to axe the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission, they're defunding the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, they're set to abolish the role of the Disability Discrimination Commissioner and plan to take millions of dollars of grant funding from the community sector.
"There are $240 million in cuts listed in the budget as changes to ‘discretionary grant programmes' through the Department of Social Services, and I have serious concerns that these cuts will be held over the community sector during ongoing budget negotiations. Cuts to the sector will mean less money going to fewer community organisations, seriously affecting their capacity to provide emergency relief, financial counselling, community services and advocacy services.
"At a time when scrutiny of the Government and advocacy for those facing inequality is more important than ever, the Government is making it harder for people to be heard. This is not something the people of Australia will stand for.
"A Senate Inquiry will provide an opportunity for people, community organisation and other sectors to have their say about the budget and the Government's agenda. This process will be open and transparent, and will provide the community with significantly more information about the impact of the budget and the measures that are necessary to address inequality in Australia.
"In the interests of good governance, I would expect all members of the Senate to support this Inquiry," Senator Siewert concluded.