The Widening Economic Divide Overlooked

Yet again ACOSS have delivered a worrying report quantifying the growing income disparity across Australia.  Although its warnings are dire, little media attention has been given to its release or to National Anti-Poverty Week (Oct 12 -18 2014).  I have to admit, I was all but oblivious.  Thank you New Matilda for keeping us all informed of the important issues.

It is a sad indictment that a small snippet on the ABC about Foodbank’s efforts was likely to raise little awareness amongst most of Australia that more than two million people regularly struggle to find sufficient food for themselves and their families.  Despite the great work Foodbank and its associates do in providing food relief to people in difficulty, there is insufficient food being donated to meet demand.

Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS, states in the Preface of the Poverty Report (page 5):

As this report shows, most of this poverty is concentrated among the groups of people facing the most disadvantage and major barriers to fully participating in our community. These include people who are locked out of the jobs market, single parents, women and children, people with disabilities, the old, the young, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and migrants.

Also in the Preface, Dr David Morawetz, Director of the Social Justice Fund admonishes (page 5):

In a country as wealthy and as lucky as ours, it is a travesty that there are still so many people living in poverty, and that we are rapidly becoming a less equal society.

We are not alone in this, as Richard Wilkinson, co-author of “The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better” said to the ABC’s Sunday Nights program last year, “Britain has become a more unequal society – both Britain and the United States are amongst the more unequal societies in the rich world”.  And Australia follows their lead like an obedient dog.  Wilkinson went on to talk of the unfortunate concomitant social effects of inequality within nations.  Things like increased child morbidity and mortality.  And increased incarceration rates and teen pregnancies.  And higher rates of violence and mental illness.  Unsurprisingly, community cohesion also declines.  Is this a path we want to follow?

So how do we tackle rising poverty rates?

My thoughts on this are:

  1. We need to stop the rising tide of working poor by overhauling the IR policies in this country.  Too many people, especially women, are working in casual jobs with no leave entitlements – if you don’t work, you don’t get paid.  Regardless of circumstances.
  2. We need to equalise the allowance and pension rates.  At the moment, people on allowances are penalised by the way in which the rates are determined.
  3. We need to reinstate Parenting Payment to parents with children under 13 years of age.
  4. We need to expand our social housing investment to provide housing to all those locked out of the property market.

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