Families bearing the burden
12 October 2015
Social Services Minister Christian Porter, should dump plans to cut the income of most single breadwinner families by more than $54 a week.
The Chief Executives of the Australian Catholic Council for Employment Relations, Brian Lawrence, and Catholic Social Services Australia, Marcelle Mogg, said the Coalition Government should not be taking Family Tax Benefit Part B (FTB B) from low and middle income families with school age children.
“The proposal discriminates against couple parent families and would leave them and their children at a lower standard of living,” said Mr Lawrence.
The 2014 Budget proposed withdrawing Family Tax Benefit Part B (FTB B) from low and middle income families with school age children. This proposal is still before the Senate. FTB B is a government payment to assist families with one main income and single parents with the costs of raising their children.
“In the case of single breadwinner couple families with two children aged eight and twelve, where the breadwinner is on the National Minimum Wage of $656.90 a week, they would lose 9.2 per cent of their net wage,” said Mr Lawrence. “Where the breadwinner is on the base trade-qualified wage rate of $764.90 a week, they would lose 8.1 per cent of their net wage.”
“FTB B is paid mainly to women,” said Ms Mogg. “This proposal is inherently discriminatory against women because it would deprive them of income while they are absent from the workforce and raising children.
“FTB B helps parents make an effective choice as to how they will balance work and family responsibilities. If implemented, the proposal would place economic pressure on couple parent families to abandon plans to have one of them stay at home to care for their children. In sole parent families, it would place more financial pressure on the parent to work more hours than they have had to in the past.”
“The proposed reduction in the social safety net would require increases in low income safety net wages and reverse the practice in recent decades of limiting wage increases by reason of successive increases in the social safety net,” said Mr Lawrence.
Further information detailing the impact on families is in the Australian Catholic Council for Employment (ACCER) and Catholic Social Services Australia's joint briefing paper (Fact Sheet) on the proposal by the Federal Government to amend eligibility for Family Tax Benefit, Part B.
A summary of the main points in the paper are:
- The May 2014 Budget sought to withdraw the FTB B weekly payments from families who do not have a child under 6 years of age and to convert the annual supplement into a Single Income Family Supplement of $300 per year, or $5.75 per week. The 2014 proposal is yet to pass the Senate and is now associated with the still unresolved matters in the May 2015 Budget.
- In most cases the proposal would cut the income of single breadwinner families with school age children by more than $54.45 per week
- Many low income working families are already living in poverty. The proposal would put more children into poverty; and those already in poverty would be in deeper poverty. Priority needs to be given to protecting children against poverty.
- FTB B is a payment, in the nature of a wage, made to those who care for their own children in their own homes. It was intended, and is, paid in recognition of the value of the work that they do.
- FTB B is paid mainly to women. This proposal is inherently discriminatory against women because would deprive them of income while they are absent from the workforce and raising children. It would exacerbate the lifetime discrimination that leaves women, on average, with substantially less income and assets as men.
- FTB B helps parents make an effective choice as to how they will balance work and family responsibilities. If implemented, the proposal would place economic pressure on couple parent families to abandon plans to have one of them stay at home to care for their children. In sole parent families, it would place more financial pressure on the parent to work more hours than they have had to in the past.
- The proposed reduction in the social safety net would require increases in low income safety net wages and reverse the practice in recent decades of limiting wage increases by reason of successive increases in the social safety net. The case for the proposed change has not addressed its potential negative impact on employment.
- Unlike the Schoolkids Bonus, which will be abolished at the end of 2016, the proposed changes were not foreshadowed in the last election.
Read the full paper: CSSA ACCER Fact Sheet Family Tax Benefit B
The Economics of Laudato Si’
14 September 2015
Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ is primarily concerned with a range of environmental issues, particularly climate change. However, as the Pope emphasises, environmental issues cannot be separated from the promotion of social justice, the need to care for the poor and the operation of economic systems. As a result, a significant part of the encyclical draws on Catholic social teaching on economic affairs and the operation of markets.
The encyclical’s analysis and consideration of economic issues has been criticised in some quarters. Prominent attacks on the encyclical, and Pope Francis personally, are to be found in editions of The Australian and The Weekend Australian newspapers published shortly after the publication of the encyclical.
The editorial of The Weekend Australian on 27-28 June 2015 claimed that Pope Francis and his advisers “emerge as environmental populists and economic ideologues of a quasi-Marxist bent”, that his views “are not part of the church’s deposit of the faith and they are not tenets of faith and morals” and that “the flock is not obliged to follow the shepherd” in his attempt to “reposition the church so far to the green-left”.
The substance of the editorial is a personal attack on Pope Francis for taking the Catholic Church into new areas of social and economic teaching and departing from the teaching of his predecessors. These claims are part of an ongoing narrative being spread in sections of the media and in social commentary. Confronting the matters raised in the editorial is a means of setting the public record straight.
The ACCER’s response to the editorial in The Economics of Laudato Si’ - no surprises here falls into several sections: an outline of the nature and purpose of Catholic social teaching; a review of Catholic social teaching on economics and markets; an outline of what Laudato Si' says on economic matters; a response to the editorial's use of quotations from the encyclical; and a response to the various criticisms made in the editorial.
This paper demonstrates these kinds of criticisms of the economics of Laudato Si' are without foundation and that what Pope Francis has said on economic issues is sound and is perfectly consistent with earlier Catholic social teaching on economic issues, including the operation and regulation of markets. The criticisms of Pope Francis and the encyclical by The Weekend Australian are unjustified and grossly unfair.
Working Australia 2015: wages, families and poverty June 2015
15 June 2015
This book contains an additional chapter (Chapter 10 The Annual Wage Review Decision, June 2015), which was written following the decision of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) on 2 June 2015 to award an increase of 2.5% in the National Minimum Wage (NMW) and award wage rates; see Annual Wage Review, decision, June 2015,  FWCFB 3500 (June 2015 decision). Between March 2015, when the initial submissions were filed by the parties and the date of the decision various steps were taken. Reply submissions, Post-Budget submissions and responses to the FWC's questions on notice were filed and consultations were held on 19 and 20 May 2015.
There are four important aspects of the FWC's decision that are covered in Chapter 10:
- the decision to increase minimum wages by 2.5%;
- the acceptance by the FWC of the submission that the NMW has to be set independently of award rates of pay and its implications;
- the abandonment of the single person benchmark for wage setting; and
- the relevance of poverty to wage setting decisions.
Download a copy of Working Australia 2015: wages, families and poverty, June 2015