While the 2022 Federal Budget provides some temporary relief for household budgets, it does very little to address the fundamental issues facing Western Sydney or assist communities recover and rebuild after the COVID-19 pandemic and recurring natural disasters.

Billie Sankovic, Chief Executive Officer of Western Sydney Community Forum said “this pre-election federal budget contains temporary fixes without permanent solutions or long-term planning. Cash splashes to ease cost of living pressures do not address deep seated issues experienced by the Western Sydney region that has been most hard hit by two years of the pandemic and lockdowns”.

The halving of the fuel excise will be a welcome relief for motorists in Western Sydney who are already experiencing a higher cost burden due to excessive toll fees and longer commutes to travel to work. However, it is critical that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and NSW Fair Trading are empowered to ensure that lower fuel excises result in cheaper petrol prices for Western Sydney motorists, rather than greater profits by retailers.

Low and middle-income earners will receive an extra $420 back on their tax returns, and pensioners, carers, veterans, job seekers and other eligible concession cardholders, plus some self-funded retirees, will receive a one-off payment of $250.

While these measures provide some welcome relief for cost of living pressures, they are temporary and do not address the rising income inequality experienced by Western Sydney residents.

The recent Public Health Orders enforced during the COVID-19 pandemic have showcased just how pivotally important Western Sydney community leaders, groups and organisations are in supporting vulnerable members of the community. Western Sydney was the hardest region hit by COVID-19 Public Health orders, yet the community organisations which helped Western Sydney survive and recover through the pandemic have been ignored by the Federal Budget.

It is greatly disappointing that there is no investment to support community organisations and leaders in Western Sydney to step up even further and continue to build their capacity to spread public health messaging regarding restrictions and vaccinations across the region.

The biggest cost of living faced by most households is housing, and this Budget ignores the need to address housing affordability or increase the supply of social and affordable housing in Western Sydney. Urgent action is needed to deliver the 6,500 additional social and affordable housing dwellings needed per year in greater Western Sydney to meet forecast demand by 2036. This is the only way to curb the increasing levels of housing stress and homelessness experienced in Western Sydney.

Western Sydney Community Forum welcomes the $2 million increase in the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation’s liability cap. Through the provision of low-cost loans to Community Housing Providers, this will support the delivery of more affordable dwellings.

An expansion of the first homer buyers’ scheme will increase the number of buyers eligible to get into their first home with a reduced deposit and relaxation of mortgage insurance requirements, however it risks driving home prices up through increased demand while not increasing supply.

A big disappointment with the Federal Budget is the lack of action on wages for aged care workers. The Aged Care Royal Commission warned the sector has a shortage of workers and the ones who are there are under-recognised, underpaid and under-skilled. As part of the workforce that has borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing more and more workers leaving the industry due to low pay and burnout.

The budget includes $49.5 million to subsidise 15,000 vocational education and training places for those who are already in or are looking to enter the aged care workforce. This follows an announcement earlier this year that current workers would get two bonus payments of $400. While welcome, there needs to be more ongoing support through higher wages for these essential workers.

Western Sydney Community Forum welcomes increased spending on a broad range of measures and programs that have been identified in the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children. We have contributed to the National Plan and highlighted for the need to address the barriers faced by diverse communities in Western Sydney.

Notably, recent research has found a relationship between women experiencing economic insecurity during the pandemic and experiencing intimate partner violence for the first time. COVID-19 has had significant economic impacts on Western Sydney, where the population is more likely to work in industries impacted by restrictive public health orders and less likely to have a strong savings buffer or alternative income sources.

The economic impacts of COVID-19 in Western Sydney are in addition to existing financial stressors in the region. For example, in 2016, Western Sydney recorded a housing stress rate of 14.6%, compared to 11.8% across Greater Sydney.

Increased spending on the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan is welcome. However, our members have highlighted the importance of additional funding reaching diverse Western Sydney communities which need it most.

There is a need for additional resources announced for mental health to trickle down to communities. The allocation of funds to larger organisations should require these organisations to demonstrate their local footprint in their communities, track partnerships and whether the funding is reaching the people it should reach. Services commissioned to provide services need to demonstrate their diversity credentials and that they are pivoting to needs of diverse communities.

Unfortunately, this Budget does not see significant new spending aimed at addressing climate change and protecting the environment. This is a particular concern for Western Sydney with rising temperatures which during extreme heat events, experiences temperatures 100c hotter than in the CBD.

Billie Sankovic said “Understandably, there are community expectations for the budget to be a miracle economic statement. As we approach the federal election, there is an urgent need for comprehensive social policy reforms to be implemented by the next Government that leads Australia during this critical post-Covid recovery period and to address the inequities experiences by Western Sydney”.