“Nearly 13 per cent of our population is living in poverty, including over half a million children.
“The members of the St Vincent de Paul Society cannot be silent about what we see every day in prosperous Australia, especially in the lead-up to a Federal Election. We can’t remain silent about the people in our midst who live in a state of permanent recession, who have had the doors of opportunity slammed shut in their faces.
“We want to know what Mr Rudd and Mr Abbott plan to do to significantly reduce poverty. We reject the argument that people are to blame for their own poverty. Or that poverty will decrease simply by making the economy stronger. In fact, we argue that we cannot build a strong and sustainable economy if we abandon 2.3 million people to a life of poverty.
“We support helping people into the paid workforce. The time has come, however, to abandon the foolish notion that forcing them into deeper poverty via the meagre rate of the Newstart payment, improves their chances of employment.
“The unemployment benefit has not been increased in real terms since 1994. Our researchi shows that the CPI is a completely inadequate guide for indexing benefit or wage increases for low income households, especially if they are renting. Low-income families with three kids facing price rises 8.7 per cent greater than the official CPI.
We therefore urge both sides of politics to:
- Increase Newstart by $50 a week.
- Introduce a method of indexing Social Security payments that will enable low-income
- households to keep up with cost of living increases.
- Outline plans for effectively assisting people into employment instead of punishing them or
- treating them paternalistically.
- Abolish compulsory income management as a costly and paternalistic programme that fails
- to address the causes of poverty.
- Increase Rent Assistance.
- Outline plans to increase access to social and affordable housing.
- Outline planned steps to meet the Homelessness White Paper target of halving all homelessness by 2020.
- Commit to the full investment in school education as per the Better Schools Plan.
- Protect and enhance the TAFE system as a powerful means of skills-training and overcoming disadvantage.
- Increase the opportunities for students from low-income households to access tertiary education.
National President Mr Anthony Thornton said:
“Australia is a wealthy country. We are a nation of strong communities, with a powerful sense of fairness at our core, and a robust economy.
“However, despite our great wealth, many people in Australia are still living in poverty. Poverty is not caused by individual failures, but by broad structural forces within society that push people to the edges and leave them there.
“Taxation in Australia is comparatively low, and contains loopholes for the wealthy such as superannuation taxation concessions and the use of Trusts as a means of tax minimisation. Recalibrating the taxation system will provide a more sustainable revenue base to support the people who have the greatest need.
“What we are calling for is simply a place to live, a place to work and place to learn. These are the fundamentals for building the kind of Australia that deserves to be called progressive and fair. And this means for everyone: the First Peoples, the most recent arrivals, and for everyone in between.
After all, what do we achieve by demonising and degrading people?”