Australia’s prosperity hides undercurrent of poverty

COUNCILS of Social Service from every state and territory have called in unison for a national plan to tackle poverty in Australia.

The push comes during Anti-Poverty Week and in the month the Federal Government signed up to poverty reduction targets.

Now the debate needs to be deepened to crack open a facade of prosperity hiding a darker reality of everyday poverty in Australia, the groups said in a joint statement.

"Analysis commissioned by ACOSS recently revealed that people in the highest 20% income group receive around five times as much income as people in the bottom 20%, while people in the highest 20% have a staggering 70 times more wealth than people in the bottom 20%," it said.

"Many have missed out on their share: women and children, sole parents, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, those from families born overseas, older people, people with disabilities, and the lowest paid workers.

"We cannot allow this trajectory to continue."

The groups called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to lead a new spirit of debate devoid of the "leaners, rorters and scroungers" language of the past and to focus on creating opportunities rather than belittling the disadvantaged.

"Australia is a fortunate country with abundant riches and continues to compare well with much of the developed world," they said.

"But at ground level we are seeing worrying cracks emerge that can no longer be ignored.

"We cannot allow growing poverty and inequality to be the new norm.

"At last count more than 2.5 million people were living in poverty in Australia, including over 600,000 children and the same number of people with disability."



Councils of Social Service say a national anti-poverty plan should:

  • Have a clear target to ensure those with the lowest incomes do not continue to fall further behind the living standards of middle income households
  • Increase job openings for the long-term unemployed and improve assistance, including real work experience training, and partnerships with employers
  • Substantially increase the unemployment benefit (Newstart and Youth Allowance) by at least $50 a week
  • Boost payments for sole-parent families to reduce child poverty in these households
  • Increase in Commonwealth Rent Assistance to ease housing stress in low-income households
  • Include a joint government strategy to accelerate supply of affordable housing