Unemployed advocates to address first poverty inquiry in 50 years
Hearing begins at 10:15am AEDT in Canberra today
Today the Senate Community Affairs References Committee inquiry into the extent and nature of poverty will hold a hearing at Parliament House from 10:15am to 7:15pm AEDT.
The experts in poverty are people who live it. Two sessions will include organisations led by people in the welfare system. Antipoverty Centre representatives will address the opening session of the inquiry at 10:15am AEDT. Members of the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union will appear at 5:15pm (full program: bit.ly/PovertyInquiryHearings).
Download the Antipoverty Centre submission (#29) here: bit.ly/PovertyInquirySubAC
This is the first inquiry focused on poverty in 50 years. The last was the Henderson inquiry, which led to the creation of the Henderson poverty line.
The Antipoverty Centre submission includes a wide range of proposals related to income support payment rates and eligibility criteria, “mutual” obligations, subminimum wage work, BasicsCard and income control, housing, Centrelink debt collection, Centrelink staffing and measuring poverty.
At the hearing we will focus on two new proposals for key long-term recommendations we're hoping to see from this inquiry:
Development of a sophisticated and responsive poverty measure, with unemployed advocates having a leading role in this process, and the inadequacy of existing poverty measures.
An independent body to set welfare payment rates. This body would be responsible for ensuring payments do not fall below the poverty line as well as monitoring and updating it based on the new methodology developed for measuring poverty. We will draw the comparison between what we are proposing and the insipid Economic “Inclusion” Committee terms of reference tabled at senate estimates last week.
We'll also emphasise the urgent need for an increase to Centrelink payments to at least the Henderson poverty line, over and above any other poverty alleviation measure in the coming federal budget. Information about the rationale for this is in our submission.
Antipoverty Centre spokesperson and DSP recipient Kristin O’Connell tell the inquiry:
We acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, and pay respect to Elders past and present across the continent. We stand with all First Peoples in the quest for justice and seek an end to colonial violence, including that inflicted through the welfare system and carceral system.
Poor people in this country are not being left behind. We are being actively held back.
We want to begin by thanking the hundreds of people who, despite the strain of living in poverty, have contributed their expertise to the many proposals included in our submission to this inquiry.
The purpose of this inquiry is to understand the extent and nature of poverty. But fact finding doesn’t help us eat or make rent, now or into the future.
We need a new, sophisticated measure of poverty for the 21st century, developed with unemployed advocates and other people on low incomes.
We need an independent body tasked with revising the poverty line.
We need Centrelink payments rates tied to it.
But we cannot wait for action. Immediate relief is desperately needed.
We urgently need income support payments lifted to at least the Henderson poverty line, like they were overnight, in 2020.
Poverty disproportionately harms First Nations people, trans folks, single-parent families, disabled people, older people and migrants. And we have heard enough from people who speak over and for us.
Our recommendations are simple, clear and provide a phased approach to the poverty crisis that does not leave us languishing in deep poverty while wealthy people pontificate about a patchwork of programs that aspire to shift the dial in one, or maybe two, generations.
This government has had a lot to say about its values but done little to back up the rhetoric. Yes, people need health, housing, education, training and employment supports. But these supports mean little, and don’t succeed, when we can’t afford to live.
The Albanese government says it cares about people who are struggling but ignores the blindingly obvious policy choice that would do the most for us.
There's no such thing as a silver bullet for addressing “disadvantage”, but there's something that comes pretty close.
Poverty and “mutual” obligations are barriers to paid work. You want to help people find and keep a sustainable job? Abolish “mutual” obligations and raise the rate.
In the past four years there was a 27% increase in people seeking help at homelessness services. You want to help people get and keep a roof over their head? Raise the rate.
More than 60,000 women aged 15-24 years old who experienced violence in 2019 were in financial hardship. You want to help people leave and stay out violent homes? Raise the rate.
People on poverty-level payments long-term die by suicide at roughly twice the rate of the general population. You want to reduce the number of people experiencing mental ill health and relieve pressure on the mental health system? Raise the rate.
The welfare system kills people.
More than 3 million people – more than one in ten of us – are living in poverty. You want to leave nobody behind? Poverty is a political choice. Don’t make it yours. Raise the rate.
Media contact: 0413 261 362 / media at antipovertycentre.org
Crisis support and counselling services
If you need support you can seek guidance, counselling or crisis help from the below organisations or talk to someone you trust.
Suicide Call Back Service – general: 1300 659 467
SANE Australia – general: 1800 187 263
13YARN – for First Nations people: 13 92 76
National Counselling and Referral Service – for disabled people: 1800 421 468
Headspace – for young people: 1800 650 890
QLife – fo LGBTQIA+ people: 1800 184 527
Full Stop – for people who have experienced sexual harassment and assault: 1800 385 578
Embrace Mental Health – multilingual service: embracementalhealth.org.au
MensLine – for men: 1300 789 978
Brother to Brother – for First Nations men: 1800 435 799
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.