A key welfare organization said in a report released Sunday that more than 2.2 million Australians, or one in eight people, are living below the internationally accepted poverty line used to measure financial hardship in wealthy countries.
Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) said people who are unemployed, children (especially in lone parent families), and people whose main source of income is social security payments, are the groups most at risk. The report provides the most comprehensive study of poverty in Australia since 2006.
Despite 20 years of economic growth, poverty has increased in Australia. "In a wealthy country like Australia, this is simply inexcusable," said ACOSS Chief Dr. Cassandra Goldie.
"The Newstart Allowance has not been increased in real terms since 1994 so households relying on it have been falling further behind community living standards and into poverty," the report said.
Goldie says it is unacceptable that the Newstart payment has not been increased in almost 20 years and that thegovernment last week made cuts to payments for sole parents.
"Two thirds of people on Newstart have been unemployed for more than a year and they clearly need more help than they are getting now from employment services," she said, adding that the government's parenting payment cuts are disturbing, given the report shows almost 300,000 children living in poverty are with sole parents.
"Under the changes passed in the Senate last week, over 100,000 sole parents on the parenting payment will be between 60 and 100 Australian dollars (61.8 and 103 U.S. dollars) a week poorer from January 2013."
ACOSS urged the Commonwealth and state governments to take steps in their next budgets to reduce poverty, by increasing income support for those in the deepest poverty, strengthening employment services for long-term unemployed people, and easing the high cost of housing for people on low incomes who rent privately.
"A wealthy country such as ours can and should do better to ensure that everyone is afforded an adequate standard of living. It is a fundamental human right," Goldie said.