ACOSS calls for national commitment to tackle growing inequality in Australia

10 December 2010


ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie has used a speech to mark International Human Rights Day to declare that the community sector is more relevant today than ever before as evidence mounts of the growing gulf between those who have plenty and those who are struggling to make ends meet.

“Despite the economic recovery and relatively low unemployment the number of people falling into poverty is rising, numbering more than two million or one in 10 people in Australia” Dr Goldie said.

“Our recent Poverty Report found the relatively low levels of pensions and benefits was one of the major causes, with Newstart and sole parent pension falling $130 per week behind the Aged and Disability Support Pension.

“Analysis of recent ABS data shows the gap between those on very high incomes and others has risen markedly between 2004 and 2008, with the bottom fifth having just 7 per cent of disposable income compared to 40 per cent for the top fifth.

“Latest figures from the ACTU show whilst overall GDP has increased by a massive 42% since 1990, the wages share of national income is now at its lowest point since December 1964.

“No place is this disparity starker than in the take home pay of workers in the social and community services sector – the very sector that has traditionally been at the forefront of advocating for greater equality and fairness.

“This is why our campaign for equal pay in this vital sector is so important at this time, not only for community service workers, but for all workers in feminised, low paid industries, many of whom face a life time of marginal poverty arising from the poor economic valuing of their vitally important work for the nation.

“This overall trend of growing inequality, which is arguably greater than ever, is simply unacceptable for a country that purports to be egalitarian.

“On this important day that marks the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ACOSS is calling for a commitment by our national leaders to the principles of this document that Australia played such a key role in bringing about in 1948.

“A determined commitment to put into effect the true meaning of human rights and not allow growing inequality to make us the poorer as a people and as a nation.

“Our starting point should be that human rights are not negotiable. That as Article 23 of the Declaration states:
• Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
• Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
• Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

“Clearly the role of independent community sector voices are not only still relevant, but probably more relevant than ever before in challenging inequality in our country.

“ACOSS will continue to push for tangible measures to ensure Australia fulfils our obligations to the human rights of every person in Australia, and the international commitment we made as a UN member to pursue the right to equality, and deliver greater justice for all.”

Media contact: Fernando de Freitas – 0419 626 155

More information on Equal Pay case
ACOSS Poverty Report
More information on International Human Rights Day 2010