This morning, Federal Parliament resumed sitting, the first time since the Federal election. The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) and UNICEF Australia immediately called upon the House of Representatives and the Australian Senate to develop an anti-poverty plan.
ACOSS CEO, Dr Cassandra Goldie, said that their updated poverty report has found that 17.3 per cent of Australia’s children are living in poverty – nearly 600,000 children. Since the beginning of this century, this is a 1.5 per cent rise in the number of Australian children living in poverty. ACOSS and UNICEF Australia are urging both parliamentary houses to not delay in developing a plan, and to do so in consultation with private and community organisations expert in the field.
Dr Goldie criticised government cuts to school bonuses, hits to Newstart and Youth allowances, and particularly the cuts to single parent subsidies.
“The early signs of our new government seem to be taking us in the wrong direction,” said Dr Goldie.
“In contrast, many tax breaks for people on higher incomes seem set to be continued.”
“The most recent Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia report found that child poverty has increased by 15 per cent since 2001.”
“Half of these children are in sole parent families, and Australia has the fifth highest poverty rate for sole parent families of OECD countries.”
UNICEF Australia’s Tim O’Connor said that Australia is not in keeping with the pace of countries around the world that are raising people out of extreme poverty, that Australia is failing in lifting children out of poverty.
“It is ironic that, while internationally the rate of child poverty is decreasing, a wealthy nation like Australia is slipping,” said Mr O’Connor.
“We really should be a world leader in ensuring that all our children get the best possible start in life.”
National Council for Single Mothers CEO, Therese Edwards said that single parents are being constantly marginalised. Ms Edwards is concerned that an otherwise affluent nation is being blindsided to its increasing poor who are being caught “in an uphill struggle.”
“Just because we do not acknowledge it does not mean that it does not exist,” said Ms Edwards.
Australia is the world’s 2nd wealthiest nation per capita, with the world’s highest median statistics but many are concerned that an increasing underclass of poverty is going unnoticed because of the skewed collectivised data that reports Australian affluence. But this is an indictment of how much Australians at the top are earning and benefiting arguably at the expense of the poor.
Dr Goldie and Mr O’Connor urged the 44th parliament to set aside politics and to action the Commission of Audit to work on an anti-poverty plan. And this plan must include respect for family payments and income support.
“There is now virtually universal agreement that Newstart is too low for anyone to live on,” said Dr Goldie.
“Half of these children are in sole-parent families, and Australia has the fifth-highest poverty rate for sole-parent families of OECD countries. The early signs of our new government seem to be taking us in the wrong direction. Foreign aid, the Schoolkids Bonus, the modest supplementary allowance for unemployed people and the low-income super contribution rebate are all on the chopping block.”
UNICEF Australia spokesman Tim O’Connor called for a new commitment to reduce child poverty. “We must start by developing a national anti-poverty plan with children at the centre,” he said.
“This national plan needs to be ambitious but both attainable and measurable.”
Earlier in the year, The Stringer reported of the 18,000 children under the age of 12 years, homeless in Australia. 18,000 children less than 12 years of age are homeless according to the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Census.
Homelessness has risen in Australia by 17 per cent since the 2006 Census to the 2012 Census. During that period total homelessness numbers increased by at least 16,000 to 105,237 reported homeless persons.
The ABS revealed that there were at least 17,845 children under the age of 12 homeless. This was a rise of more than 3,000 from the 2006 figure of 15,715 children aged less than 12 years less living homeless.
More than a quarter of all homeless Australians are aged under 18 years.