A re-elected Morrison Government will be a disappointment for further action on many of the social justice issues of greatest concern to Uniting Church members. However, there is some good social justice news as well.
On the issue of people seeking asylum and refugees the Coalition Government has stated that it will maintain the humanitarian intake to 18,750 people a year, which is the maximum number of refugees Australia will take. Labour would have increased the intake to 27,000 people a year. The Coalition Government has committed to repeal the law passed by the last Parliament that allows people seeking asylum who are on Manus Island or Nauru to come to Australia for medical treatment if recommended by two independent doctors. It can be expected that they will continue to cut off financial support to people seeking asylum who are living in the Australian community.
On justice for First People groups in Australia, it remains to be seen if the new Coalition Government will adopt any of the reforms proposed in the Statement from the Heart made by First People representatives at Uluru. The Coalition Government will continue with the racially discriminatory Community Development Program, which has resulted in high levels of financial penalties against First People who are seeking employment and have been forced onto the program.
On the issue of climate change, a Coalition Government is far less committed to take action than a Labor Government would have been. The Coalition Government will spend $2 billion in its term in office to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through measures such as revegetation of degraded land, reducing waste, savannah burning and improving energy efficiency. It will also press ahead with the Snowy River 2.0 hydro power project. At the same time they will continue to support the development of the Adani mine.
There will be less measures pursued to stop tax evasion and tax avoidance by multinational corporations and by wealthy individuals misusing trusts to reduce their tax payments for the benefit of the community. Overall the Coalition Government will aim to collect less government revenue and therefore Australians need to expect that government will deliver less services, lower quality services and do less to stop criminal activity compared to if a Labor Government had been elected.
There are areas where the Coalition Government had been pursuing very positive reforms and can be expected to do more than a Labor Government would have. This especially applies to pursuing measures to address the role multinational technology corporations play in obstructing and hindering police efforts to tackle online child sexual abuse.
The Coalition Government plans to spend $328 million over its terms in office to fund the Fourth Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, with the funding being for prevention measures and frontline services.
The unfinished business of the previous Coalition Government which the JIM cluster had been supporting included:
- Further reforms to address the exploitation of people working temporarily in Australia as migrant workers;
- Reforms to address the predatory behaviour of pay-day lenders and companies that lease household goods;
- Reform of the system by which people can set up and register companies to stop people being able to set up front companies with false identities for the purpose of engaging in criminal activity such as stealing the wages of their employees, fraud, tax evasion, bribery and money laundering;
- Reforms to ensure that only suitable people can work with people with disabilities under the National Disability Insurance Scheme;
- Reforms to curb payment of bribes by Australians to foreign government officials; and
- Reforms to stop people from overseas stealing money from their governments and shifting it into Australia, especially through the purchase of Australian property.