NA­TION Money ‘ won’t lift the poor’

Townsville Bulletin - - NATION -

BOOST­ING wel­fare pay­ments and rolling out more ser­vices isn’t the an­swer to fight­ing poverty, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment has warned, as it urges Aus­tralians to take a different tack in fix­ing the prob­lem.

Hu­man Ser­vices Min­is­ter Alan Tudge in­stead has mapped out a five- pronged ap­proach to help more than three mil­lion Aus­tralians – in­clud­ing 731,000 chil­dren – who are liv­ing in poverty.

Three decades af­ter for­mer prime min­is­ter Bob Hawke de­clared no child would live in poverty by 1990, Mr Tudge de­scribed en­trenched dis­ad­van­tage and im­pov­er­ish­ment as ar­guably the most im­por­tant chal­lenge fac­ing Aus­tralia.

“We can­not solve it by dou­bling the num­ber of ser­vices again. We can­not solve it by hav­ing an­other step- in­crease in wel­fare pay­ments,” he said dur­ing a speech in Syd­ney yes­ter­day.

“We need col­lec­tively to put our minds to the un­der­ly­ing fac­tors.”

Cou­ples on un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits with two chil­dren re­ceive up to 38 per cent more to­day in real terms than they would’ve 30 years ago, while a sin­gle par­ent on New­start with two kids gets up to 67 per cent more. A sin­gle per­son on un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits without kids re­ceives about 10 per cent more.

“To­day, an un­em­ployed cou­ple with three chil­dren would re­ceive about $ 48,000 in wel­fare pay­ments each year. This is the equiv­a­lent to a $ 60,000 salary,” Mr Tudge said. “It is a good safety net to en­sure that no one need go hun­gry or without cloth­ing, shel­ter and the ba­sics.”

Hikes to wel­fare pay­ments had been com­ple­mented by a sig­nif­i­cant boost to so­cial ser­vices dur­ing the past 30 years.

A com­plete lack of in­come was not al­ways the prob­lem but rather a “gen­eral dys­func­tion” which meant chil­dren’s po­ten­tial was un­able to be max­imised.

More than 225,000 chil­dren suf­fered abuse or ne­glect or were at risk of suf­fer­ing in the past year, about 29,000 were home­less at some stage, and one in eight kids lived in a job­less house­hold.

Mr Tudge ar­gued the need to tackle fam­ily break­down, fi­nan­cial ca­pa­bil­ity, ed­u­ca­tional fail­ure and “workless­ness”, re­peat­ing his well- trod­den catchcry that the best form of wel­fare was a job.

He also pleaded the case for con­tro­ver­sial sub­stance abuse mea­sures aimed at wel­fare re­cip­i­ents, in­clud­ing drug tests, cash­less wel­fare cards and crack­ing down on us­ing ad­dic­tion as an ex­cuse for fail­ing job- seek­ing obli­ga­tions.

“If more money was the an­swer, we would have solved many of the problems years ago,” the min­is­ter said.

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