There’s too much poverty in our rich coun­try

A stronger so­cial se­cu­rity safety net is long over­due

Money Magazine Australia - - THIS MONTH -

To­day there are more than 3 mil­lion peo­ple, in­clud­ing 739,000 chil­dren, liv­ing in poverty in Aus­tralia. This is one in eight adults and nearly one in five chil­dren. In a wealthy coun­try such as our own, this is an un­ac­cept­able sit­u­a­tion.

The ma­jor­ity of peo­ple liv­ing in poverty re­ceive a so­cial se­cu­rity pay­ment, such as New­start, Youth Al­lowance or a fam­ily pay­ment. Our so­cial se­cu­rity pay­ments are so low that they trap peo­ple in poverty – it’s in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult to get a job when you’re wor­ry­ing about how to put food on the ta­ble or to make sure you have a roof over your head. The rate of New­start has not in­creased in real terms in 24 years, while the cost of the ba­sics of life have gone up.

The sto­ries of peo­ple strug­gling to get by on New­start are har­row­ing. Ellen, who is in her 60s and cares for two chil­dren, shared her story. “I eat one meal a day so the kids can eat. My sweet girl says I should eat more. I was a nurse for 27 years. All my sav­ings have gone. I’m in so much debt. I try my best but feel so ashamed.”

The sin­gle most im­me­di­ate pol­icy that would re­duce poverty in Aus­tralia overnight is to lift the rate of New­start and Youth Al­lowance by a min­i­mum of $75 a week. There is broad sup­port for do­ing so, in­clud­ing from the Busi­ness Coun­cil of Aus­tralia and the Aus­tralian Coun­cil of Trade Unions, lead­ing economists and for­mer prime min­is­ter John Howard.

Many of us are just a job loss or a re­la­tion­ship break­down away from re­ly­ing on our safety net and al­most 70% of the Aus­tralian com­mu­nity be­lieves New­start should be in­creased.

We can af­ford a de­cent so­cial se­cu­rity safety net in Aus­tralia, in­clud­ing by en­sur­ing that wealth and prof­its are taxed fairly.

Politi­cians must heed the calls from right across the com­mu­nity on the need for a de­cent so­cial se­cu­rity safety net.

Cas­san­dra Goldie, CEO, Aus­tralian Coun­cil of So­cial Ser­vice

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