Child poverty in Australia ‘alarming’
The federal government has defended its approach to tacking welfare as new research found nearly three million Australians are living below the poverty line.
A new Australian Council of Social Service report showed this staggering figure included 731,000 children – a two per cent increase in the past decade.
ACOSS chief Cassandra Goldie says these alarming in results should act as an urgent appeal to senators to reject further cuts to family payments, currently before the upper house.
Assistant Minister for Social Services Zed Seselja says the government is very committed is finding ways to encourage people to look after themselves and get those people off welfare who don’t need to be on it.
‘Our opponents on the left have pushed, I think, a welfare mentality in this country,’ he told Sky News.
‘We simply can’t go on assuming for huge numbers of Australians welfare will just become the norm.’
He said the government is committed to an ‘ investment-led approach’ which may result in more training, more mentoring and more opportunities for internships.
Labor’s spokeswoman for families and social services Jenny Macklin hit back, saying Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has failed to show leadership on tackling poverty and inequality.
‘Instead, Mr Turnbull wants to make cruel budget cuts that will hurt vulnerable Australians even more,’ she said in a statement.
But Dr Goldie is becoming increasingly frustrated with such debates.
‘We frame it as if it’s the fault of the individual, you’re either lazy, not working hard enough, not retraining hard enough, but the basic numbers are there,’ she told ABC television.
‘One job available for every five people conservatively is the estimate looking for paid work.’
She said former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke reduced child poverty by a third after setting it as a core goal of his government.
‘But over the last 10 years we’ve seen no change in the level of poverty among the Australian population as a whole, but children are really at risk,’ Dr Goldie said.
She said the cuts stripping another $60 a week from single parent families and the proposal to withhold Newstart support for young people for up to four weeks will likely lead to increased poverty.
Dr Goldie said the overall picture from the last decade was one of persistent and entrenched poverty across the community with an increase in child poverty, which she described as a national shame.
Those most at risk are children in lone parent families who are three times more likely to be living in poverty than those from couple families,
Dr Goldie said those doing it toughest were overwhelmingly people living on the $38 a day Newstart payment, 55 per cent of whom were in poverty.
That was followed by families on the parenting payment (51.5 per cent), the majority of whom were lone parents with children.