poverty

Welcome attention was drawn to the issue of poverty with the 2014 publication of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-first Century, which became an international bestseller.

The Political Economy of Inequality by Frank Stilwell, Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Sydney, gives a more rounded overview of the issue in a more manageable volume than Piketty’s hefty magnum opus.

It is fast becoming a recognised fact — almost a truism — that the Newstart Allowance is too low. For unemployed people trying to get by on about $300 a week ($277 without rent assistance, $227 for those under 21), this is not news.

The 2019 Rich List, published by the Australian Financial Review in late May, revealed that the wealth of the 200 wealthiest people in Australia has increased by more than 20% over the past year. Their combined wealth totalled a massive $342 billion.

I will happily take any opportunity to wave a red flag in public. My chance to do so this year was on May 1, the International Workers' Day.

A well-attended forum on women and poverty was organised by Micah Projects, a not-for-profit organisation at Queensland Parliament House on October 16.

Micah runs a homeless support centre in Brisbane and has long been an advocate for the poor and marginalised. The 200 attendees were mainly professionals.

The forum was chaired by Channel Seven presenter Kay McGrath. Songwoman of the Turrbal people Maroochy Barambah gave a heartfelt musical Welcome to Country in her language.

Here’s a novel idea: Instead of politicians voting themselves another pay rise, how about we give them a pay cut? A real pay cut. We ask them to do what a couple of million Australians are expected to do, week in and week out.

The Newstart Allowance received by Australia’s jobless (if they are lucky enough to get it) stands at $273 a week. The last time it was raised, relative to the Consumer Price Index, was in 1994. Last year, the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research calculated the poverty line for a single adult was at around $510 a week (including housing costs). That corresponds to a present figure of about $521. This means Newstart is now $248 a week below that miserably low poverty line.

There is a common trend when arguing against a Universal Basic Income (UBI) to use critiques that could apply to any policy. The logical thing to do, if we were to take this line of reasoning at face value, would be to stand for nothing.

Before looking into these criticisms, we should begin by addressing exactly what is a UBI. A UBI is an unconditional, liveable wage for every citizen. If it does not meet the three metrics of 1) unconditionality; 2) liveability; and 3) for every citizen; then it is not a UBI.

Currently more than 800,000 people are without paid work and are struggling to meet basic needs such as housing and food. There are countless stories of those living on welfare having to choose between paying a bill or eating a meal. Anyone who has been unemployed knows it costs money to seek employment, from printing your resumes to the cost of travel to interviews, appropriate clothing or a haircut. It is nearly impossible to look for paid work if you are homeless and hungry.

The federal Coalition government's so-called "tax reform" package is, overall, a major escalation of the capitalist class war by the rich against the poor and working people.

The initial tranche of income tax measures will reduce tax by a very modest amount for low-income taxpayers, but the long-term effect of the package is to massively reduce tax on the wealthy and attack the elements of a progressive taxation system established in this country over many years.

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