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My first Budget

Date published: Wednesday 5 July 2017

Category(ies): Comment

It's been a good two months now since I experienced the whirlwind that was my first Federal Budget.

The Budget’s a pretty big deal in Canberra and I showed up to all sorts of associated events as well as the Budget lockup itself.

The day before the Federal Budget, a group of community sector organisations organised a meeting at Old Parliament House. This event was inspired by “The People’s Budget” in the UK in 1909 which established the welfare state. It was organised by ACOSS, the Community Council of Australia, community legal centres, unions and Indigenous organisations. Attendees represented 75 different organisations from virtually every part of the community sector. The focus was how people rather than economics could be put at the centre of our Budgets, and one of the key messages that resonated with the group was 'We don't have a budget crisis, we have a values crisis'. It received a rousing round of applause! There was a joint media conference afterwards on the lawn in front of new Parliament House to raise some of the equity, environmental and social issues attendees were speaking out about.

A few hours before the lockup, I met with other ACOSS members to discuss what the different sectors were expecting from the Budget. We discussed and shared intelligence and our potential organisational responses.

Next was the lockup itself, followed by the long lineup in the press gallery to give commentary to the media pack. Despite some fairly major debut nerves, I did eventually get to the front of the queue and say a few meaningful things about the social housing announcements.

Then it was back home to finalise and distribute the media releases on our response to the Budget announcements. As it turned out, there were plenty of Budget issues for us to comment on in 2018:

The following morning I joined the ACOSS post-Budget media conference at Parliament House to give a united response from the community sector to the Budget announcements.  And the following Monday was a post-Budget breakfast where the Treasurer spoke. All these events were great opportunities to meet people in the sector and make helpful contacts for our future work.

No doubt the annual ritual will become routine before I know it. But reflecting on this first experience, I think particularly about the importance of being present. Showing your face and speaking up during occasions like this is critical if Baptist Care Australia is to be a fully-functioning member of the national community sector. It made me glad that we're based in Canberra so that this is easy rather than difficult. And it also underlined to me the importance of large faith-based providers who provide essential community services. There are other organisations  doing great work as well, but it was clear that we are part of a large faith-based movement that's not to be underestimated.

Marcia Balzer
Executive Director