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Monday, 18 October 2004

National call to govt: make poverty a top priority

UnitingCare Australia is part of a contingent of Church based service providers that have called on the re-elected Coalition government to make the most of Australia’s economic stability and prosperity by committing to a National Anti-Poverty Plan within its first 100 days of government.

UnitingCare, Anglicare Australia, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, Catholic Welfare Australia and the Australian Council of Social Service called on the government and all politicians returning to Canberra to create a well resourced National Anti-Poverty Plan to help the poorest Australians.

“Access to and affordability of services such as housing, education, health, and employment is already beyond the reach of many Australians. With two million people living in poverty in Australia, we call on this Government to urgently address this matter1. By acting now, we can save ourselves the social and economic costs the poverty will create in the future,” said ACOSS President Andrew McCallum on behalf of the group.

“While many Australians have enjoyed the benefits of economic growth and sizeable budget surpluses, sadly for many the economic ship had sailed past them. It would be a national disgrace not to invest surpluses to reduce the number of people living in poverty – especially when Australia has the fifth highest level of poverty in the OECD,” said Anglicare Australia Executive Director Sue Leppert. (Interviews Tel: 0402 825 282)

“To create a prosperous and inclusive Australia, the Coalition government must invest more in education, full time employment, quality aged care and affordable housing for all Australians. This much needed social investment will help people out of poverty and enable them to benefit from, and contribute to, Australia’s economic growth,” said Brotherhood of St Laurence Executive Director Tony Nicholson. (Tel: 0417 307 716)

“The community service sector is ready to lend its support to a National Anti-Poverty Plan that would put aside political differences and concentrate the energies of the government and non-government sector to find effective and permanent solutions that reduce poverty,” said Catholic Welfare Australia’s Executive Director, Frank Quinlan. (Tel: 0417 220 779)

“What we have seen in countries like Ireland and Britain*, where anti-poverty targets and plans have been introduced, is that reducing poverty is not a pipe dream. A National Anti-Poverty Plan should ensure that the poorest families are given a fair chance and help narrow the gap between rich and poor in Australia,” said Lin Hatfield-Dodds, National Director of UnitingCare. (Tel: 0408 402 222)

*ACOSS has released an Info Paper International Comparisons of Anti-Poverty Plans – Lessons for Australia which is downloadable from www.acoss.org.au This Info Paper examines the British and Irish anti-poverty plans and their relevance for Australia.

1) According to NATSEM research in 2000 there were around 2.5 million people in income poverty (living below the poverty line), including 750,000 children (13% of people and 15% of children).