Alle­vi­at­ing poverty:

Aus­tralia will be called to ac­count


This is not to deny (again with the ben­e­fit of hind­sight) that the pledge was un­re­al­is­tic in terms of what could be achieved in such a short pe­riod – the com­mit­ment was made in the run-up to the 1987 fed­eral elec­tion. Even so, it re­sulted in sig­nif­i­cant – and in many in­stances – long-last­ing re­forms be­ing made to the sys­tem of in­come sup­port for chil­dren (lead by re­formist So­cial Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter, Brian Howe). Those achieve­ments demon­strate the im­pact that poverty tar­get­ing can have when it is for­mu­lated and backed at the high­est

It is easy to be wise af­ter the event, but the wide­spread cyn­i­cism that greeted Bob Hawke’s pledge to ‘end child poverty by 1990’ was as wide of the mark as the ac­tual pledge it­self. Although Hawke him­self has since ad­mit­ted that the an­nounce­ment was un­wise and a de­vi­a­tion ‘from the script’, sub­se­quent events have shown that the child poverty pledge was ahead of its time in two key re­gards: first, be­cause of its em­pha­sis on the need to set poverty tar­gets; and sec­ond be­cause of the fo­cus given to the prob­lem of child poverty, now ac­knowl­edged to be one of its most dam­ag­ing man­i­fes­ta­tions.

JAN– MAR 2018

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