Home > National News > Disability landmark tarnished by deficit of justice on aid, asylum seekers

Disability landmark tarnished by deficit of justice on aid, asylum seekers

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia Rev Professor Andrew Dutney has responded to the 2013 Federal Budget by urging politicians and policymakers from all sides to do more for the most vulnerable people at home and abroad.

"I warmly welcome the decision to fully fund DisabilityCare Australia and the support it will extend to people of disability, their families and carers," said Dr Dutney.

"This is an important spiritual landmark in the history of our country and in our commitment to those who need help."

However Dr Dutney expressed concern about the Federal Government's continued punitive approach to asylum seekers and its decision to postpone its promise to increase aid to countries not as lucky as Australia.

"My greatest concern tonight is not the national deficit, but the deficit of justice and compassion in a number of policies – particularly in relation to asylum seekers."

"As we hear how Australia's wealth among nations continues to grow, we should be ashamed of our commitment to immigration detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island, and of stripping the dignity away from asylum seekers by curtailing their working rights.

"In this Budget, additional funding to offshore processing, just on its own, amounts to more than 10 times the funding for onshore processing.

"This shows how our national lack of compassion for asylum seekers is distorting our priorities.

"The Budget confirms that expenses for irregular maritime arrivals will be capped.

"This is another punitive measure unworthy of such a wealthy nation."

The Uniting Church has long advocated for asylum seekers to be accorded the dignity they deserve as human beings, and supports community-based detention models and the right to work for asylum seekers on bridging visas.

Dr Dutney nevertheless welcomed the overall increase to humanitarian visas to 20,000 people.

The Uniting Church in Australia's international relief and development agency, UnitingWorld, has expressed disappointment that the Government will not honour its commitment to increase overseas aid.

"We are disappointed that the Government has again broken its promise to the world's poorest people.

"Every year of delay in funding impoverishes the people who need it most," said Dr Sureka Goringe, Chair of UnitingWorld's Relief and Development National Committee.

"Equally, last year's unprecedented diversion of $375 million to domestic asylum seeker processing threw so many excellent programs into doubt and disrupted the sustainable planning of future projects."

"We cannot underestimate the impact that those cuts and diversions have had on vulnerable communities, many of whom are Australia's closest neighbours.

"The tragedy is, we know sustainable development works.

"In 1990, 40% of the world lived in extreme poverty.

"That figure is now less than 20%. Sustainable aid has also halved the number of children who die each year before their fifth birthday.

"We are on the brink of a fairer, more just world.

"We must continue to demand that our government keeps its promises to the world's poorest people.

"Australia is currently the third largest recipient of its own aid – that is not poverty alleviation.

"That is not the way forward."

The Uniting Church in Australia has also welcomed an additional $1.6 billion in funding to continue closing the gap on indigenous disadvantage.

"The new funding for National Partnership Agreements to improve the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians is great news," said Dr Dutney.

"Reconciliation between Australia's First and Second Peoples can only occur when the clear disadvantages faced by indigenous Australians are greatly reduced."

"Funding for an Indigenous Languages Support program to support the revival and maintenance of traditional languages is also a welcome and important step in the right direction."

Dr Dutney said he was also encouraged by the continued move towards constitutional recognition of Indigenous people in Australia's Constitution – a move the Uniting Church in Australia has already enacted across its national and state councils.