Community Sector & Unions Call on Parliament to Tackle Poverty
19 October 2010 at 11:48 am
Four leading community groups and unions have called on the Federal Government, the Opposition, The Australian Greens and the independants to outline their priorities for combating poverty during Anti-Poverty Week 2010.
A statement released by the Australian Council of Social Service, Reconciliation Australia, Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Council for International Development says that with unemployment at 5.1%, there are still 611,000 people looking for work. They say current economic conditions have brought some benefits, however glaring inequalities remain, including the following:
- Young people and sole parents are particularly hard hit, competing for jobs in the face of unemployment rates of 14% and 10% respectively.
- The level of long-term unemployment is now rising: 300,000 people on the (unemployment) Newstart Allowance having received that payment for longer than a year.
- Seven million Australians go without the dental treatment they need due to cost.
- Indigenous poverty and social disadvantage remains acute, with life expectancy for Indigenous people well below that of the total population and infant mortality for Indigenous infants at three times the rate of non-Indigenous infants.
- Corporate profits are up strongly and profits share of national income is now near the record highs of 2008, but the wages share is the lowest since 1964. The gender pay gap also remains a disappointing 17.3%.
- Internationally, Australia is yet to announce plans to meet UN targets for overseas aid.
ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie says that on 4.3 million occasions last year Australians requested help from community services, however during the federal election and since the formation of Government they have seen scant support for those Australians who are missing out the most.
Goldie says that for jobless Australians there has been ro real increase in unemployment payments for almost two decades.
Reconciliation Australia CEO Leah Armstrong says despite the welcome focus on closing the ‘gaps’ between indigenous and non-indigenous people across a range of social indicators, reconciliation remains critical to addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander poverty. Armstrong says solutions must be mindful of the historical aspects of Indigenous Disadvantage that are played out in the disparities we see today.
Australian Council of Trade Unions President Ged Kearney says that in striving for a more cohesive and equal society, it is necessary to strengthen and secure workers’ rights to employment and income security through collective bargaining and to maintain a minimum wage that promotes social inclusion, a fair and relevant safety net, and improves fairness and equality in Australian society.
The Australian Council for International Development Executive Director Marc Purcell says that over the the past two years, nearly 100 million people in developing countries were plunged back into extreme poverty as a result of the Global Financial Crisis and food price spikes. While bipartisan commitment to the Millennium Development Goals is welcomed by Purcell, he says the Government and Opposition need to announce their timetables for committing to the UN target of 0.7% of Gross National Income for overseas aid in the run up to the next Federal Budget.
The fours organisation represent community services, trade unions, international development organisations and the commitment to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.
At the start of the new Parliament, the groups called on the major parties and independents to respond to a set of major areas and initiatives that had been identified for reform and to outline their own priorities to reduce poverty and address disadvantage in Australia and internationally.
- Community priorities for an Australian Government anti-poverty agenda:
- Provide opportunities for low income earners and job seekers to improve skills and get ahead in the labour market.
- Reform the social security system so that payments are based on minimum costs of living.
- Reform Australia’s tax system to ensure that it is fair, equitable and sustainable.
- Promote better work-family and work-life balance.
- Strengthen and secure workers’ rights to employment and income security.
- Maintain a minimum wage that promotes social inclusion, a fair and relevant safety net, and improves fairness and equity in Australian society.
- Work to guarantee respect for the rights of all workers in Australia and put an end to poverty, inequality, discrimination and exploitation.
- To acknowledge the ongoing role of reconciliation in ending Indigenous poverty, and to work harder to involve Indigenous people at all levels of policy design and implementation.
- For Australia to develop the Close the Gap agenda to include a range of targets that address the dimensions of poverty that are particular to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
- Announce timetables for committing to the United Nations target of 0.7% of gross national income for overseas aid.