Anti-Poverty Week - 14/10/2019

14 October 2019



This week is Anti-Poverty Week, and I rise to speak because poverty exists and poverty hurts us all, but there is a lot that we can do about it. Just over three million Australians are living in poverty, including one in six Australian children. The highest rates of poverty are unsurprisingly among people trying to get by on Newstart allowance. It's unsurprising, because the rate of Newstart allowance leaves someone well short of the poverty line. How do we expect people to pay rent and survive on around $280 per week with costs as they are at the moment?

Living in poverty means much more than simply falling below a certain level on the income distribution. As someone I met at the Early Morning Centre here in Canberra once put it to me, poverty is having to choose between food for your baby and tampons. Poverty is missing out on the things most in our wealthy society take for granted. Poverty is being excluded from things because you simply can't afford them. And there is a lot we can do to address poverty in this country. The most powerful thing the government could do is to increase Newstart allowance, and I call on them again today to do so with urgency.

My electorate of Canberra is a wealthy community and, therefore, a particularly difficult place to be poor. Almost 7,000 Canberrans are trying to get by on Newstart or youth allowance. That includes an estimated 1,000 families with 1,600 children, and the majority of these are sole-parent families. Homelessness is on the rise. We need to do so much better for these families, for our nation's children. A poll commissioned by Anglicare shows that around 80 per cent of Australians believe the government has a responsibility to ensure that everyone can afford to put a roof over their head and food on their table, and I call on them to do just that—to ensure that all Australians truly get a go.

In Canberra, we have incredible community organisations that assist Canberrans living in poverty: the Early Morning Centre, St Vinnies Night Patrol, St John's Care in Reid, Community Services #1 in Narrabundah, OzHarvest, the Holy Cross Tuckerbox in Hackett, the YWCA, Havelock Housing, all the crisis accommodation services, and many others I haven't named. I thank you for all you do for our community. These organisations and their volunteers do amazing work and make a huge difference in people's lives. But ultimately it's not their responsibility and they can't do it on their own. We simply cannot address poverty in this country while Newstart is so woefully inadequate. I call on the government to recognise and address poverty in this country, and raising Newstart is the first step.