This week in review - 28 February 2019

Mark Henley

Human Rights Bill for Queensland passed

It is a historic day for Queensland as we celebrate the Palaszczuk Government's decision to pass the Human Rights Act for Queensland. QCOSS has been working alongside Queensland's 12 community service peak organisations to legally enshrine human rights for some time and we applaud the Queensland Government for this historic law reform, which passed yesterday afternoon (27 February 2019). More information about this momentous change is available on the QCOSS website.

International Women’s Day

Next week we will celebrate International Women’s Day and we have chosen this edition of Focal Point to focus on the achievements of women in the community sector and highlight some of the events coming up.  The theme this year is ‘Balance for Better’. This theme relates to many things including the need to ensure there is strong representation of women on boards and in senior management positions in the sector to get that balance right. I am proud that the QCOSS Board has very strong representation with five women. I hope you can take the time to celebrate this important day.

National COSS Network asks Bill Shorten to stop the cashless debit card

In-line with our strong advocacy against the cashless debit card, the national COSS network have written to Bill Shorten asking for his support to oppose the extension of the cashless debit card and income management beyond June 2019. ACOSS and all the State and Territory Councils of Social Service strongly oppose any extension of the current trials of cashless debit as well as income management. There is no credible evidence from the existing cashless debit trials or evaluations of income management that it is improving people’s lives. Bill Shorten has said, if elected, he will roll back the card in Hinkler which would be great for that community, however we believe this is something that should be stopped across the country.  Not only does he or the Prime Minister need to roll back the cashless debit card, they need to address the cause of poverty for many people by lifting the rate of Newstart and Youth Allowance. All federal members of parliament need to act on this issue.

GetUp ruling protects issues-based advocacy for charities

An important decision by the Australian Electoral Commission this past fortnight reaffirms the independence of activist group GetUp. This ruling has set an important legal precedent protecting charities’ rights to engage in issues-based advocacy, community leaders say. ProBono covered the ruling in more detail but I believe this is critical for the work we all do in the community to influence systemic change to improve the lives of people in Queensland. This is an important win for the community sector and the communities that we serve and support.

Living affordability in Queensland

Last week we released our regional living affordability report. The report clearly states that many people in Queensland are not able to afford a basic standard of living. It is appalling that this is reality for people in a country like Australia. We will continue with this advocacy as we talk to our elected representatives, at a federal, state and local level, about the decisions they must make to change this situation. It was good to see that the media took this issue up with great enthusiasm and they shared our concerns that not enough is happening from our elected representatives to address this issue.

Senate Inquiry into Credit and Financial Services

QCOSS was pleased to be able to make a submission in 2018 and presented at the Brisbane Public hearing of the Senate Inquiry into Credit and Financial Services in 2019. The key recommendation from the Credit and financial services targeted at Australians at risk of financial hardship report encourages the federal government to review “the adequacy of government payments including Newstart”. Although it is encouraging to see this on agenda, what is needed now is for the federal government to raise the rate of income support, not just review it. The report contains a number of good recommendations you can see below but I want to stress that QCOSS will continue to recommend raising the rate of Newstart and Youth Allowance by $75 per week, as outlined in our Living Affordability in Queensland report. Our website has more information.

Mark Henley

Chief Executive Officer