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Poverty a problem for all Australians.

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Media Release

Senator Jocelyn Newman

Minister for Family and Community Services

Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women


Tuesday, 8 June 1999




The St Vincent de Paul Society report “The Hidden Faces of Poverty” is an important reminder to all Australians of the urgently needed reforms to social security policy implemented under the Howard Government, Family and Community Services Minister Senator Jocelyn Newman said today.


However Senator Newman rejected the Society’s call for an increase in unemployment payments above indexed adjustments.


“While we acknowledge the Society’s findings that there are parts of Australia where poverty and unemployment are entrenched problems, we do not believe that progressively larger dole cheques are the cure for welfare dependency,” said Senator Newman.


“We believe we should strike a balance between the need for work incentives and the need for a fair social security safety net.


“Striking the right rate of any benefit is always a trade-off between ensuring an adequate standard of living for recipients, and ensuring that they have adequate incentive to take up employment.


“The community expects Newstart recipients to be actively participating in the labour market, so it is important that we ensure that they always have a financial incentive to get off the payment and become self-sufficient.


“Even Labor’s so-called thinkers such as Mark Latham are catching on to the idea that the welfare-dependent need a hand-up, not a hand-out.”


Senator Newman also questioned the report’s fundamental underpinning of the Henderson Poverty Line.


“No Australian Government has ever endorsed the Henderson or any other poverty line. Most of the rise in ‘poverty” estimated using the Henderson measure is due to the fact that the Henderson line has risen very substantially in real terms, and as a proportion of average incomes in the community as a whole. It is hardly surprising that poverty is estimated to have risen when the “poverty line” is rising faster than the level of incomes,” said Senator Newman.


Senator Newman said that the declining unemployment rate and growing economy were making great inroads into the poverty problem and compared the current jobless rate of 7.5 per cent to Labor’s record of unemployment above 11 per cent with a million Australians looking for work.


Finally, Senator Newman took issue with the report’s claim that this government has cut welfare spending. The proportion of the Budget spent on welfare has risen steadily from under 29 per cent late last decade to a forward estimate of over 38 per cent early in the new millennium.


Media inquiries: Richard Wilson (02) 6277 7560 or 0419 693 092

Simon Bush (02) 6277 7560 or 0407 780509



al  1999-06-10  10:37