The peak body of Australia’s community services sector, ACOSS, and the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, are today calling on the new Australian parliament to make tackling growing child poverty a national priority and commit to do more to reduce the problem globally.
As the 44th Parliament sits for the first time in Canberra, and with the Commission of Audit underway, ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said it’s time for all sides of politics, business and the community to come together to develop a comprehensive national poverty reduction plan.
“Reducing poverty must be a key plank of the nation’s efforts to improve participation and productivity, and secure a sustainable revenue base to meet the future needs of our country,” Dr Goldie said.
“The sad reality is that despite two decades of strong economic growth and enormous success in reducing child poverty since the 1980’s, we’ve gone backwards in recent years. Our updated Poverty in Australia report, which we are releasing today, shows that nearly 600,000 or 17.3% of children in Australia are living in poverty.”
“The most recent Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) report found that child poverty in sole parent families has increased by 15% since 2001.* 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 school kids bonus, the modest supplementary allowance for people unemployed and the low income super contribution rebate are all on the chopping block without clear plans to invest more in our poorest children, families and communities.
“In contrast, many tax breaks for people on higher incomes seem set to be continued,” Dr Goldie said.
UNICEF Australia spokesperson, Tim O’Connor said, “The only way to reverse this disturbing trend is for the new parliament to unify behind a renewed commitment to reduce child poverty.”
“We must start by developing a national anti-poverty plan with children at the centre. This national plan needs to be ambitious but both attainable and measurable. We already have a model in the UN Millennium Development Goals, which have been enormously successful in reducing child poverty globally.
“It is ironic that while internationally the rate of child poverty is decreasing, a wealthy nation like Australia is slipping when we really should be a world leader in ensuring that all our children get the best possible start in life so they can reach their full potential.
“We also urge the new Government to keep children at the centre of our international development efforts in the wake of deep cuts to our foreign aid budget and a re-focus of aid priorities,” Mr O’Connor said.
Dr Goldie said, “ACOSS’ analysis points to reductions to family payments and income support over the past decade as key driver of this worsening picture in Australia, especially the move to delink indexation to wages and the decision to move more and more single parents onto the much lower Newstart Allowance payment. There is now virtually universal agreement that Newstart is too low for anyone to live on. Housing costs are also increasingly prohibitive.”
“Reducing the number of children living in poverty in Australia should be central to the work of the Commission of Audit, and subsequent budgetary decisions.
“As our newly elected representatives sit for the first time today, we urge them to make this commitment and work with us to provide opportunities and futures for all our children,” Dr Goldie concluded.
ACOSS is joining with UNICEF and bringing together child welfare experts, agencies and frontline workers for a forum, ‘Turning the tide on growing child poverty in Australia’ today to map out the way forward in this important area of public policy. Find out more here.
ACOSS – Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155
UNICEF Australia – Kate Moore 0407 150 771
ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie and UNICEF Australia spokesperson Tim O’Connor will hold a joint doorstop at 12.15pm on Tuesday 12 November 2013 at the ACOSS policy forum: Venue – NAB Building, Level 15, 255 George St, Sydney.
Download updated ACOSS Poverty in Australia Report here.
All speeches from the forum are now available on our dedicated child poverty page here.
*Correction made on 25 November 2013