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Treasurer’s plan for philanthropy a dangerous structural shift
Raising income support payments is the fastest and most effective thing the Albanese government can do to reduce inequality and address ”entrenched disadvantage”
The Antipoverty Centre is alarmed by treasurer Jim Chalmers’ push to absolve the government of responsibility for supporting people in poverty, announcing his intention to rely more heavily on philanthropy and paternalistic “place based initiatives”.
Localised programs are no substitute for adequate income support.
Philanthropy is inefficient, unevenly distributed, influenced by donor biases and prejudices and less reliable than public services. It conveniently enables those who have enriched themselves through genocide and stolen wealth to shirk their responsibility to pay taxes for the benefit of the whole community.
The role of philanthropy must be limited. Philanthropists should not be relied on to solve structural problems. Instead, they must work directly with those who are failed by government to bring about policy changes that would do away with the need for charity altogether.
Inequality is not a “wicked problem”
Two-faced politicians are wringing their hands about the causes of inequality as they continue to inflict harmful “mutual” obligations policies that make it harder to get a job.
The answers to addressing inequality are clear. Politicians don’t want to hear it because they’re too invested in the dole bludger myth that they themselves created. Millions of us are barely surviving in a poverty trap of their creation while the government feeds relentless media poor bashing by weaponising labour market shortages against disabled people, carers and others facing discrimination and structural barriers to paid work.
When Scott Morrison increased JobSeeker to the Henderson poverty line and removed “mutual” obligations in 2020, people who rely on income support to live felt more equipped than ever to find and maintain a sustainable job. It brought about a precipitous drop in property crime.
People who have complex health and other support needs will never get adequate help while so many resources are strained by the entirely unnecessary poverty crisis.
Talk of a “wellbeing budget” and the shameful ”economic inclusion committee” that excludes those of us who suffer the consequences of their decisions are a charade. This performative empathy is designed to make people with power look good while they deny us support they could easily provide.
Politicians must stop this cruel virtue signalling. We deserve better than to be sacrificed on the altar of their political expediency.
We don’t need more demeaning food banks, voucher programs, services, mental health awareness. We need money. We need it urgently.
The government must take immediate action to address poverty and the housing crisis
We call on the government to:
Increase all income support payments to at least the Henderson Poverty Line and then work with unemployed advocates to develop a poverty measure that is fit-for-purpose in the 21st century.
Abolish “mutual” obligations and work with unemployed advocates to create a voluntary, supportive employment services delivered by the public sector.
End all forms of compulsory income control including the racist BasicsCard, which continues to terrorise 20,000 people in the Northern Territory 15 years on from its introduction.
Remove the partner and parental income tests and other restrictive rules to ensure that every person living on this continent can get support when they need it.
Take immediate steps to alleviate the housing crisis by working with all levels of government to impose rent controls, transition short stay dwellings back to rentals and cap the number of investment properties that a person can own while the longer term work of investing in public housing is done.
Quotes attributable to Antipoverty Centre spokesperson and DSP recipient Kristin O’Connell
This isn’t what poor people asked for and it isn’t what we need.
Jim Chalmers’ philanthropy co-investment proposal is nothing but a misdirection. It is austerity by stealth. The treasurer knows there are straightforward and effective ways to addressing inequality.
It's a disturbing state of affairs when the government's solution to inequality is to outsource our wellbeing to private organisations whose priorities change on the whims of unaccountable individuals.
People like Andrew Forrest have done incalculable harm to people in poverty already, the last thing we need is to give them more power. This move is not only a cop-out, but it's a dangerous shift in Australia's welfare state. It makes a farce of the treasurer’s proclaimed commitment to a “wellbeing” budget.
These proposals are band-aids for gaping wounds the government itself is inflicting. We have no time for flimsy responses to the cost of living and housing crisis. The welfare system is killing people.
The government’s choice to leave millions in poverty is vile and irresponsible. We are not the cause of inflation and inflation is no excuse for depriving people of the essentials.
The only moral choice the treasurer can make in this budget is to lift all Centrelink payments to at least the Henderson Poverty Line, which is currently $88 a day, and start listening to what people in poverty have been telling him for years.
Media contact: 0413 261 362 / media at antipovertycentre.org
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About the Antipoverty Centre
The Antipoverty Centre was established in May 2021 by people living on Centrelink payments to counter problems with academics, think tanks and others in the political class making harmful decisions on behalf of people they purport to represent.
We have deep expertise in poverty, disadvantage and unemployment, because we live it. Our goal is to help ensure the voices and rights of people living in poverty are at the centre of social policy development and discourse. We believe there should be no decision made about us without us.
The Antipoverty Centre is not aligned with any political party and does not accept funding that places political constraints on our work.