Do we have the collective will to end poverty?

Tackling poverty is rarely mentioned in political discourse (Pixabay)

How did we get here, and why does Australia, allegedly the land of the fair go, fail to make progress on lifting the bottom 10 per cent out of poverty, asks journalist Gay Alcorn. Source: The Guardian.

Australia’s peak body for community services organisations, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) routinely calls our persistent poverty rates disgraceful, its Poverty in Australia report last year finding that three million of us, or just over 13 per cent, live in poverty, including 739,000 children. “Poverty is now a consistent feature of Australian life,” said its CEO Cassandra Goldie. “Are we prepared to accept this?”

It seems we are. For decades, poverty and deep disadvantage have been all but absent in our political debate, and it’s unlikely any major political party will make ending or halving or tackling it in any targeted way a “vital national goal”.

We are the second wealthiest people on earth. Whether the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer is contested, but the productivity commission’s detailed report last year found that income inequality has risen only slightly in the past 30 years.

The commission concluded that three decades of economic growth had “delivered for the average Australian household in every income decile significantly improved living standards”, mainly due to our progressive tax system and our highly targeted transfer system – unlike many countries, the vast bulk of government social spending is directed to those who need it most.

The commission’s finding didn’t mean that none of us had gone backwards – Newstart recipients certainly have - but its then chairman Peter Harris said the report’s most crucial lesson wasn’t about inequality at all. Its real message was that “despite 27 years of uninterrupted economic growth, and unemployment stabilising at a notably lower level, and significant investment in redistribution of income via Family Tax Benefit and child care assistance in the 2000s, and a boost to indexation of the age pension late in that decade, we still have 9-to-10 per cent of Australians living on very low incomes”.


Poverty as a moral question: do we have the collective will to end it? (The Guardian)


Federal Election 2019: Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten lay out ‘fair go’ visions (The Daily Telegraph)

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