This week saw the publication of the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, affectionately referred to as MYEFO. While the media and the markets worried about the size of the deficit, the date of the return to surplus and those to blame, we were also interested in the tone that surrounded the announcement and its handling as an indication of the thinking of the Turnbull government.
The language may be a little more circumspect than previously, but the savings are still to be gained from the usual suspects – welfare benefits and aged care. The government is talking less about individuals – there is no echo of the leaners and lifters rhetoric – and more about systems. But there is little doubt the money is to be gained from the ‘lower end of town’. It was interesting to see the release of data about the top 1,500 companies and their payment (or not) of taxes in the same week.
It is hard to see that there is still such a level of ‘alignment’, debt recovery and general housekeeping yet to be done. With Newstart at the pitiful level of $26.70 per day, it would take a lot of chipping in by everyone on low incomes to get to $1.5 billion in savings.
It does focus us for the big debate of 2016, which will be that of tax reform. While the language of tax and reform seems tedious and trivial, it does actually answer the big questions around how we want to live together. Taxation is the means. We should actually be elevating our conversations first to the ends – what kind of a society we want to be, then the discussion about how much government revenue and how to collect it will fall into place.
In addition to tax reform, 2015 has been the year in which the elephant that has inhabited our collective room for so long – competition in human services – properly reared its head (or should that be trunk) through the Competition Policy Review. Anglicare Australia has had input and commentary to this review and debate. We have talked about a typology that identifies some transactional human services which may benefit from efficiency and its (hopefully) attendant savings, and others that are more complex, that operate upon the relationship between people.
Many of the services operated by the Anglicare Australia network are complicated; they work in the very arena of what it means to be human. This cannot easily be distilled. A race to the lowest price point is unlikely to affect lasting change, which ironically means the cheapest service does not save money.
This is true for individuals, for our clients and for the network.
We have long argued (in many State of the Family reports for example) that change and growth occurs for humans in relationships; that humans flourish in relationship and that true transformative changes occur in people’s lives through the work they are supported to do in relationships. A journey from using drugs to not, from homelessness to housing, from child protection to citizen, are not simple one-way transactions. These are the hardest journeys people could undertake and whenever we are able to ask anyone what made the difference to them, it always comes down to a human relationship.
Just like humans, most organisations do their best work in relationship and it’s been an exciting year in the Anglicare Australia network as we leverage off the capability of the network and our capacity to work together in large and small groups.
The establishment of Anglicare College, the creation of legal document templates for collaboration, the Out of Home Care Forum and subsequent Anglicare Australia secondment in OOHC are all examples of the growing repertoire of our joint work. Additional to our advocacy and research work, they are enabled by the trust and shared values of the network.
Next year will kick off with a rash of Anglicare special interest networks driving our work in research and advocacy, in business processes for the NDIS and individualised services, and in joint and national fundraising. Of course these networks also provide a wonderful collaborative place for professional development and sharing.
However, as we head into 2016, there is still a lot unknown about areas of great importance to our clients. NDIS, mental health, child care to name but a few against a backdrop of a government trying to balance the books, facing a Budget with measures from the last two still not passed.
I will be away next year over January and Roland Manderson will be taking up the reins.
There is no doubt that 2016 will be a big year with many challenges so I hope everyone gets to enjoy some of what is left of 2015 and that everyone gets to take some break, however small, over the Christmas period.