Federal budget 2017: ‘People’s budget’ begs for a cash lifeline

BUDGET DEMANDS: Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney speaking as part of the "people's budget" group at Parliament House on Monday.
BUDGET DEMANDS: Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney speaking as part of the "people's budget" group at Parliament House on Monday.

Politicians will take centre stage in Canberra on Tuesday as the federal budget is revealed, but on Monday it was the groups representing the workers, students and the less well-off people in communities.

Representatives from 70 groups put together their own version of the “people’s budget”, focusing on issues such as welfare and renewable energy, rather than the infrastructure and business policy like to feature in the proper 2017-18 budget.

Hume Riverina Community Legal Service was celebrating last month after Attorney General George Brandis’ abandoned plans to slash what was effectively $35 million in funding from community legal centres.

Speaking at Parliament House on Monday, National Association of Community Legal Centres chief executive Nassim Arrage said the worries were not over.

“Even with this level of funding, there is still a huge amount of unmet legal need across Australia – we want to live in a fair and equitable society where everyone can get access to legal services when they need it, not just when they can afford it,” he said.

“The federal budget represents an essential lifeline to community legal centres.”

As Albury and Wodonga businesses were being asked to continue paying penalty rates, the Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney has asked the federal government to focus on ending the anxiety in workers’ lives.

“What they need from this budget, a people’s budget, are decisions that will deliver jobs ... that protect people when they are at work, that help them when they are sick, that make sure they have time to care for their children or for their elderly relatives, jobs that deliver for our communities, that keep communities alive through local government,” she said.