Reverse the attacks on sole parent benefits

2.3 million Australians live below the poverty line.

In 1988, then Labor Prime Minster Bob Hawke famously promised: “By the year 1990, there will be no Australian child living in poverty.”

Yet the recently released 2012 Poverty In Australia report by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) reveals that 2,265,000 people, including 575,000 children, are still living below the poverty line in Australia.

The traditional formula used in Australia for the poverty line is 50% of median disposable income. In Britain and in the European Union the poverty line is considered to be 60% of median disposable income. If this formula is used, the ACOSS report says there would be 3,705,000 people, including 869,000 children, living in poverty.

An Anglicare report released on October 16 revealed that about 22,000 adults cannot afford to eat for a whole day most weeks, and almost 1 in 10 households report that their children often did not eat for a whole day on a regular basis.

This is appalling at a time when Australia is in the midst a mining boom of historic proportions. Mining companies, banks and other big corporations are making record profits and their CEOs are getting obscenely high pay packages. And all this under a so-called Labor federal government.

Even more disgusting is the fact that Julia Gillard’s Labor government has just pushed through parliament welfare changes that will force 100,000 single parents (mostly women) off parenting payments and on to the even lower Newstart unemployment allowance.

The ACOSS report found that 37% of people on social security payments are already living below the poverty line. This includes 52% of people on the Newstart Allowance, 45% of people on the Parenting Payment, 42% of people on Disability Support Pension, 24% of people on the Carer Payment, and 14% of people on the Age Pension.

It also found that women make up 53.8% of people in poverty. The attacks on sole parents’ benefits will greatly increase the numbers of women in poverty. This shows the utter hypocrisy of Gillard’s rhetoric about sexism and misogyny.

The Socialist Alliance calls for:

• the immediate reversal of all the attacks on welfare payments, in particular the new restrictions on access to sole parent benefits.

• the Newstart Allowance to be immediately raised to the level of the age pension and all welfare benefits to be raised to the level of a living wage automatically indexed to real cost-of-living rises.

• job creation though public investment in a rapid shift to renewable energy and public transport to address the climate change crisis, as well as in public health, education and housing and a reduction in the work week (without loss in pay).

Poverty is a crime for which both Labor and Liberal parties in government are responsible. In government, both parties have boosted the incomes of the rich in a country where the richest 20% already own two-thirds of the wealth and the poorest 20% are left to share just 1% of the wealth.

To pay for the urgently needed measures to address the shocking poverty numbers, the Socialist Alliance calls for an increase in the tax rates for corporations to 49% (the level it was until 1988), the reversal of recent personal tax cuts for the highest income bracket and for bringing the mining and banking industries under community ownership and control.

[Sue Bull is the Socialist Alliance candidate for Mayor of Geelong and Sue Bolton is the Socialist Alliance candidate for north-east ward of Moreland City Council.]

Related article: Labor, Coalition attack single parents and their children