The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia has responded critically to the McClure Report and has called on the federal government to address the causes of unemployment rather than trying to cut social expenditure.
Chief Executive, Dr John Falzon said: “What we are looking for is a plan for jobs. What we are left with is a long-term attempt to reduce social spending. The people who use the social security system in Australia are people we should be investing in and supporting. Poverty is not a personal choice. Neither is unemployment. The people who are unemployed are not the problem.
The problem is that there are not enough jobs. With only one job available for every ten jobseekers it is clear that the starting point should be a jobs plan, including economic development in areas of high unemployment combined with access to high quality education and training. It also means addressing the clear inadequacy of the Newstart payment, which sits at only 40 per cent of the minimum wage and is so low that it has become an obstacle to participation. We repeat our call for an immediate $50 a week increase to the Newstart payment and the indexing of all payments to wages rather than CPI. A good social security system is meant to prevent poverty, not to humiliate people. You don’t help people into jobs by forcing them into deeper poverty.
“The St Vincent de Paul Society supports an approach which actually invests in people and supports them so that they can participate in society and, where appropriate, in paid employment. We are concerned by the potential impact of the proposed tiered Working Age Payment. We are also alarmed by suggestions that support for people living in social housing could be undermined. As for the suggestion that people under the age of 22 should not receive independent income support, we are left wondering how they are meant to survive.
“If, for the government, the key objective is to reduce expenditure, this simply cannot be reconciled with the objectives of keeping people out of poverty, supporting people to live with dignity, investing in education and training and creating jobs, especially in areas of high unemployment.”