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Australia's working poor missing out -

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Australia's working poor missing out

Broadcast: 12/10/2007

Reporter: Helen Brown

The welfare of Australia's low income earners is slipping, according to a report by the
church-based charity, Anglicare.


VIRGINIA TRIOLI: The welfare of Australia's low-income earners is slipping, according to a report
by the Church-based charity Anglicare.

The report says despite more than a decade of economic growth, the benefits have not reached the
country's poorest. It has also found that the Government has cut back on its commitment to those on
low incomes while people on moderate to high wages have been able to move ahead.

Helen Brown reports.

HELEN BROWN: The economic boom has created the good life for many, but a welfare agency is warning
that around two million Australians are missing out on the wealth.

DR RAY CLEARY, ANGLICARE VICTORIA: I think it's showing that our economic and social policy are not
in sync with each other, that we've emphasised increased standard of living and growth without
putting into place what others have called "the people" aspect.

HELEN BROWN: The Anglicare report says the past 10 years have not been kind to those who are
already struggling - those on incomes under $35,000, who are also dealing with disability, low work
skills or single parenthood. Anglicare says even two-income families are needing help to pay the
bills because while there's more work, it's sporadic and uncertain.

DR RAY CLEARY: The rhetoric that low income wages have risen, while true, needs to be seen in the
context that their expenditure has risen faster.

HELEN BROWN: Professor Bob Gregory studies labour markets and social policy and says it is a mixed
picture for the working poor.

BOB GREGORY, AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY: I don't think there is much doubt that the stance of
government generally is not to direct more money to this group, except where there's been children

HELEN BROWN: The Federal Government today released a document outlining its achievements of the
last decade and how they'll help with the future.

JOHN HOWARD: The first of those is a new growth and opportunity agenda which will build a
tomorrow's prosperity and help Australians reap the benefits of hard work, educational endeavour
and home ownership.

HELEN BROWN: But Anglicare is not impressed.

DR RAY CLEARY: Social policy has slowly been in a sense sidelined by governments at all level,
although sometimes the rhetoric suggests that they're in tune with it but the reality is they're

HELEN BROWN: The welfare group says those who can afford to pay for private health and education
are moving well ahead of those who rely on public services.

DR RAY CLEARY: When I explain to people who are high-income earners about the plight of low-income
families, they're surprised. I had a comment some time back, you know, what's a $10-a-week rise in
petrol prices? Well, for someone on low income, that's very significant.

HELEN BROWN: An interest rate rise tipped for later this year or next will make matters worse.
Professor Gregory says mortgage and rental costs are going to become even more of an issue.

BOB GREGORY: There's no obvious sign that housing for the less skilled and the low-paid is going to
become more affordable,

HELEN BROWN: And a possible rise in interest rates is one of the reasons 81 per cent of Australians
are worried about how they will pay off debt in the year ahead. A report by credit check company
Veda Advantage says more people are finding it harder to keep on top of their repayments.

Helen Brown, Lateline.