As Parliament returns, Albanese must not lose sight of its promise to leave no one behind | Edwina MacDonald

NOTo we envy the challenges Anthony Albanese faced when he was elected Prime Minister just over two months ago. He provided a promising start for reform when he reiterated his governing mantra on election night: “No one is held back, and no one is left behind”.

Despite its strategy of small targets, Albanese has embarked on welcome and important reforms overdue for this parliamentary term, including the implementation of the Uluru declaration of the heart and the increasing ambition of the reduction target. Australian emissions.

As the new parliament sits for the first time this week, the Prime Minister has a golden opportunity to deliver on his election night promise by putting the most deprived people at the center of his government’s agenda – to create a employment and skills agency, legislating an emissions target and the introduction of domestic violence leave laws.

Australia’s very low unemployment figures are cause for celebration. More people in paid work is good – for workers and for the economy. But not everyone looking for a job can get one, not everyone looking for overtime can get it, and not everyone who receives unemployment benefits can do paid work.

Of the nearly one million people receiving jobseeker’s allowance, nearly half are elderly, around 40% have a disability and 12% are single parents. Many find that employers are unwilling to try them or provide an inclusive and accessible workplace, despite the large number of vacancies. Others are simply unable to undertake paid work.

This is why the goal of increasing incomes must go beyond raising wages – our income support system must be sufficient to cover the cost of basic necessities, especially in an environment of high inflation. .

Those making do with $46 a day – who are already struggling to meet basic needs – are cutting hot water or heating to meet rising food, fuel and electricity costs. As much as it is about helping those who can work find meaningful employment, we need to take care of those who cannot.

The Jobs and Skills Summit scheduled for September offers a real opportunity to look at the underlying issues that prevent people from getting decent or adequately paid work and to develop a concerted strategy to achieve full employment. A move on this front will ease pressure on the budget in a tight fiscal environment, although there is no doubt that the government will need to raise more revenue to meet the needs of the people.

As the emissions reduction target is debated this sitting week, parliamentarians must ensure that our climate change policies focus on those in need. If Australia is to reduce emissions at the necessary rate, we must not exclude low-income people from the transition to renewable energy. Low-income people pay four times their income in energy bills, but many are stuck in freezing houses because fuel is too expensive to go anywhere.

Australia urgently needs a plan to ensure low-income people, including tenants and people living in social housing, can access clean technologies such as rooftop solar, batteries and electric vehicles, and are not disadvantaged by unfair subsidies, levies and cost recovery. measures. Financial support for low-income people is essential, including through increased income payments and more adequate and responsive energy concessions.

The emphasis on 10 days of paid domestic violence leave is a welcome step to address the insufficient incomes that prevent women from leaving an abusive partner. Recent research has again shown that violence causes poverty, with a shocking 50% of single mothers who experience violence or abuse in a relationship now living in poverty.

Domestic violence leave is essential but not sufficient. To ensure that all women are safe to escape violence, including those who are not in the paid labor force, the provision of sufficient income support is fundamental. The Australian Council of Social Services and other organisations, including Economic Justice Australia called for the inclusion of adequate income support in the national plan to reduce violence against women and their children. The plan must also commit to building more social housing so that women can escape violence.

The government faces tough budget choices, but creating a better and fairer Australia is a priority. From jobs to climate to domestic violence leave, it’s essential that Australia’s most marginalized people – those on low incomes – are front and center so that we truly leave no one behind.

Over the past two months, Australians have weathered floods and a particularly cold winter, amid energy shortages, rising interest rates and rising prices for rent, food, drugs and fuel. Added to this is the rising wave of Covid.

The public is ready to give the Albanian government a chance. They look to the government for help. We saw it with calls to reinstate pandemic leave and Covid crisis payments, which was a welcome acknowledgment of the need to support low-income people and prioritize their health amid a increase in cases.

Not everything can be achieved in these first weeks of sitting. But in implementing its agenda, Albanese must not lose sight of its commitment to leaving no one behind.

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