Pressure mounts for cost-of-living relief in budget

Cost of living is front and centre as the federal government prepares the upcoming budget, with a leading welfare organisation calling for people on the lowest incomes to be prioritised.

The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) released its budget submission which called for unemployment payments to be raised to at least $76, up from the current $48.

The organisation also urged the government to use the budget to lay foundations for a more inclusive future by investing in long-term, essential social services.

ACOSS head Cassandra Goldie said it was a disgrace that despite Australia being one of the wealthiest countries in the world, unemployment payments were the lowest among comparative OECD countries.

As Australians battle a cost-of-living crisis, Dr Goldie said it was the right time for the government to step in and fix the adequacy of key social protections.

"The government has the tools to build a more equal Australia ... every budget is about choice and it does actually set up the values of the country," she said.

"We very strongly think the budget should be about about tackling inflation (and) we should be focusing on measures that are not harming those who are most at risk."

People most at risk of inflationary pressures are those on the lowest incomes and Dr Goldie said many Australians were already going without to try and make ends meet.

"This is not about the cost of a cup of coffee, this is about the essentials of life," she said.

ACOSS also called on the government to do more to raise adequate revenue, including cancelling the $18 billion-a-year stage three tax cuts which overwhelmingly benefit the top 20 per cent of income earners.

The contentious tax cuts are due to come into effect from 2024.

In its submission, ACOSS outlined measures to increase community services funding through proper indexation and proposed investments in energy efficiency and solar retrofits for low-income households.

Dr Goldie said the budget must prioritise gender equality measures as well as invest in more social housing.

"This is a budget we want to see that actually speaks to the government's commitment that nobody is going to be left behind," she said.