This year’s Federal Budget sparked some of the most heated political debates Australia had ever seen, and the LGBTI community was not immune from it either. Tanya Plibersek, the deputy leader of the federal opposition party, has labelled it a “horror budget”, and here she argues why it’s bad news for our community.

This piece first appeared in the July edition of Star Observer, which is available now. Click here to find out where you can grab your free copy, or here to read it in digital flip-book format.

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WE all know the stats. No matter how many times you hear them, they become no less shocking. To understand the true impact of the Abbott Government’s first Budget on the LGBTI community, they bear repeating here.

More important than the numbers though, are the people’s lives they represent. The Abbott Government’s first Budget does nothing to improve things for them. Indeed, in many respects, Mr Abbott’s Budget is likely make things much worse.  Here’s how:

COST OF LIVING

The facts: 1. Women and people with HIV (of which around 80 per cent are gay men) are more likely to be financially disadvantaged in superannuation. 2. Thirty-one per cent of people with HIV live below the poverty line.

Under the Abbott Government Budget?

The Low Income Superannuation Contribution will be cut, which means workers on incomes below $37,000 will be around $500 per year worse off.

Labor’s plan to increase compulsory superannuation contributions from nine per cent to 12 per cent are delayed. This would have seen a 30-year-old on average wages with an extra $100,000 in super when they retire.

The Budget also means under 30s will be kicked off Newstart for six months, which would see an unemployed 26-year-old be nearly $7000 a year worse off with the extra health costs and cuts to the income support bonus. This could force many into homelessness.

The Budget also scrapped the fair indexation of the pension, which made sure the pension kept pace with the cost of living. Had Tony Abbott’s new indexation system been in place for the last four years, a single pensioner on the maximum rate would be $1560 a year worse off than they are today. The pension age has also been increased to 70.

Pensioners and state seniors card holders are set to lose valuable concessions for public transport and utilities, and students will be hit by higher university fees, including the prospect of $100,000-plus price tags on degrees.

This is in addition to the increased health, housing, and legal costs detailed below.

HEALTH 

The facts: 1. Suicide rates among young LGBTI people are six times higher than the average. 2. Research reveals that about 30 per cent of LGBTI people have been treated for depression, including up to 50 per cent of trans* people. 3. Around 14 per cent of patients interrupt their HIV treatment and almost one in 10 stop their HIV treatment altogether because of pharmacy costs. 4. Studies have shown that concerns about costs discourage people from being tested for STIs.

Under the Abbott Government Budget?

There will be end of universal healthcare — Medicare.

There will be a $7 fee every time you go to your GP, to get a blood test, or an x-ray, plus an extra $5 charge every time you get a script for medicine filled at the pharmacy.

$197 million will be cut in funds accessed by health organisations like AIDS councils to run their programs.

Meanwhile, $53.8 million will be cut from the Partners in Recovery program that provides support to people living with a severe and persistent mental illness, their carers and families.

This comes on top of Liberal state governments ripping funding away from sexual health services and sexual health support organisations, like Biala House in Brisbane and the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities.

HOUSING

Fact: Young LGBTI people account for up to 40 per cent of homeless youth.

Under the Abbott Government Budget?

$44 million will be cut from homelessness services. The impact this will have on services for young LGBTI people who have been kicked out of home is extremely concerning.

The Budget also cuts the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS). NRAS has increased the stock of affordable housing — more than 14,000 dwellings have been completed and around 24,000 additional homes are in the pipeline across the country.

SOCIAL INCLUSION

Fact: Terrible discrimination is still a daily reality for many LGBTI people and those with HIV or AIDS.

Under the Abbott Government Budget?

A further $15 million will be ripped away from Legal Aid Commissions that provide support to organisations like the HIV and AIDS Legal Centre and the Redfern Legal Centre.

It also appears the Department of Human Services Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Working Group that I introduced when I was Health Minister has been abandoned. The group provided critical advice to government on important services like Medicare and Centrelink.

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Nothing tells you more about a government’s priorities and values than one if its Budgets. Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard couldn’t have put it better a few weeks ago when she said: “Budgets are made up of choices. They make us — all of us, no matter what side of politics we are on — think about what we care most about, what we want valued in our society. What we want to create and reward, preserve and defend.”

In his first Budget, Tony Abbott has made a choice to deliver a blow to the LGBTI community. Mr Abbott’s made a choice to deny the facts.

But I make the choice, and Labor makes the choice to stand up for everyone in the community.

Tanya Plibersek is deputy leader of the Australian Labor Party and the Sydney federal Labor MP. She is also a former federal Health Minister.

 

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