Welfare Groups Urge PM to Tackle Poverty
12 October 2015 at 11:48 am
The peak welfare bodies across Australia have called for a national plan to tackle growing poverty in Australia, including setting targets to ensure the incomes of the lowest earners increase at least at the rate of those in the middle.
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and the state and territory Councils of Social Service said it was clear that not everyone had benefited fairly from Australia's period of economic prosperity. Women and children, sole parents, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, older people, and people with disability are some of the groups left behind, they said.
“We have seen income and wealth become more concentrated in the hands of fewer people over the last 20 years across the country,” the Councils of Social Service said in a joint statement.
“Analysis commissioned by ACOSS recently revealed that people in the highest 20 per cent income group receive around five times as much income as people in the bottom 20 per cent, while people in the highest 20 per cent have a staggering 70 times more wealth than people in the bottom 20 per cent.”
The peak bodies said a clear target was needed to elevate the 2.5 million people, including 600,000 children, out of poverty. Although the Councils did not recommend a target themselves, they said the Federal Government should focus on job openings, and increased unemployment, family and rental assistance benefits.
“For too long, poverty reduction has been off the political agenda, rarely spoken about or acknowledged by our political leaders,” they said.
“This month, the Australian Government signed up to poverty reduction targets as part of its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals.
“Following this commitment, and as public policy debate opens up in the wake of leadership change, we must ensure there is space for a national conversation about poverty.”
Anglicare Australia joined in the call for a poverty action plan, releasing the State of the Family report to mark Anti-Poverty Week, which profiled those most at risk of poverty.
Drawing on research from the recent Living Standard Trends in Australia study, Anglicare said the income gap would continue to widen for unemployed people and low-income earners, which could create lifelong disadvantage.
“Anyone on a low income, anyone who’s had partial or interrupted or non-participation in the workforce, they are entering retirement very much poorer than others who are able to have worked,” Anglicare Australia Executive Director, Kasy Chambers, told Pro Bono Australia News.
“Entry level jobs are disappearing, as are traditional jobs, we need to make sure there are entry level for young people, for people entering the workforce after a period of time, whether it’s after having children or who’ve been absent through mental illness.”
The Report also included research from Anglicare Sydney, called A Profile of Deep and Persistent Disadvantage, which recorded data from more than 36,000 people who accessed emergency relief centres between 2007 and 2014.
It found that unemployment was an overwhelming factor driving people to seek emergency relief, with only five per cent of the people visiting centres in full or part time work.
Chambers said she hoped that a new Cabinet under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will result in policy that is less geared towards high-income earners.
“In light of having a new Prime Minister and a new Cabinet, we want to implore that everything goes back on the table in the taxation review,” she said.
“There’s too much already been ruled out, it’s hard to have a proper review when we’ve already ruled out so much – a lot of the higher income supplements around superannuation, around capital gains tax and negative gearing.
“We want to see those back on the table, we want to acknowledge that there’s more to Australia’s budget than cutting spending. We need to look at the revenue side as well.”