The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council marked Anti-Poverty Week today by launchingTwo Australias: a report on poverty in the land of plenty.
The report outlines practical recommendations for the new government in the light of the facts on poverty in prosperous Australia. It explains that for those who have been left out, choices are few and deprivations are many and that, in the provision of the fundamentals such as housing, health, education, and access to meaningful employment, governments must do what markets cannot.
Chief Executive, Dr John Falzon said:
“Our members across the nation are continuing to see the emergence of two Australias: one characterised by prosperity and high-end consumption, the other by a daily struggle to be able to afford the necessities of life. We are launching this report as a tribute to the courage of the people who have borne the brunt of inequality in Australia.
“It is popular in the current political environment to blame people for their poverty, but the truth told by the people on the margins speaks louder than the lies told about them.
“An adequate income is crucial, which is why, despite the constant ideological resistance, we continue to advocate for a much-needed $50 a week increase to the Newstart payment (which currently sits at 40% of the after-tax minimum wage) and a change in the way it is indexed. But income support is not enough. We need to look at what locks people out of the labour market.
“Tackling inequality means investing in high quality social and economic infrastructure for the benefit of all. It means high quality education and health being completely accessible to everyone regardless of their income or their postcode, their gender, the colour of their skin, or their disability.
“It means guaranteeing appropriate housing rather than abandoning people to a private rental market that is notoriously bad at meeting the needs of low-income households.”
St Vincent de Paul Society National President, Mr Anthony Thornton, said:
“Over the last 40 years full-time wages have increased by 59% for high-income jobs, but by only 15% for the lowest income jobs. While the poorest fifth of households have not seen an increase in their wealth over the last 10 years, the richest fifth have increased their wealth by almost 30% in the same time. When compared to other developed countries, Australia performs poorly on income inequality measures. Out of 34 developed countries, we are the ninth most unequal.
“We are calling on the new government to revisit the recommendations of the McClure Report commissioned by the Howard government in 2000. This must start with income adequacy for those outside the labour market and on its insecure fringes but it must also include practical pathways to employment instead of punitive or paternalistic programmes such as compulsory income management.
“It’s time we got serious about poverty and mustered the political will as a nation to broaden our revenue base so that we can systematically reverse the slide into two Australias. It is time that we left behind the outmoded notion that we can actually address poverty by making life harder for people or that we can help people find jobs by kicking them when they are down. We should also reject the falsehood that we can address poverty and unemployment by sacrificing wages and conditions for the low-paid.”
For a copy of Two Australias: click here.