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ACOSS calls for protection and opportunity for disadvantaged Australians.



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Media Release

 

ACOSS

Australian Council of Social Service

 

Issued: 17 September 1998

 

ACOSS calls for protection and opportunity for acoss disadvantaged Australians

 

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) today released an open letter which was forwarded yesterday to the leaders of the major parties seeking key guarantees of protection and opportunity for disadvantaged people.

 

In releasing the open letter the President of ACOSS Mr Michael Raper said "We are seeking two basic guarantees from the party leaders - a guarantee of basic income protection, and a guarantee of employment opportunity for long-term unemployed people.

 

“In these uncertain times, there are many guarantees that ACOSS could justifiably seek, but we regard these as key commitments for low income and disadvantaged people.

 

“The specific commitments we seek are as follows:

 

1. A guarantee to provide all unemployed people who are seeking work substantial paid work experience together with appropriate training within 12 months of be coming long-term unemployed.

 

2. A guarantee to at least maintain the current rates, benchmarks, and eligibility criteria for all income support payments.

 

Rising poverty and inequality

 

"There is grave disquiet in the electorate that too many Australians have failed to benefit from the major economic restructuring of the last decade or so. Both poverty and inequality are rising. 1 in 9 Australians now lives below the poverty line - including 556,000 children. The top 20% of income earners are now paid 10 times more than the bottom 20%.

 

“Reflecting this rise in poverty and inequality, Australia has fallen from 7 th to 15 th in world ranking on the Human Development Index - our worst ever score.

 

“Unemployment - the biggest cause of poverty and hardship - now affects 761,000 people. 251,000 of these have been unemployed for more than 12 months, and over half of these for more than 2 years.

 

“Both parties have claimed that their tax packages will benefit all Australians. But without these key commitments, there is no guarantee that the benefits of tax reform will be felt by those who are most in need. Securing the revenue base is only the first step. That is why ACOSS is seeking these guarantees on behalf of low income and disadvantaged Australians" concluded Mr Raper.

 

Media contacts

 

To obtain a copy of the open letter or arrange interviews with ACOSS President

Michael Raper, contact Ann Mara: Work: 02 9310 4844 (ext.216)

At home: 02 9319 5145

 

 

CALL FOR PROTECTION AND OPPORTUNITY FOR MOST DISADVANTAGED

 

This open letter to the leaders of all political parties calls for your personal public commitment to give the most disadvantaged people in our community two basic guarantees prior to this election:

 

• A guarantee to provide all unemployed people who are seeking work substantial paid work experience together with appropriate training within 12 months of becoming long term unemployed.

 

• A guarantee to at least maintain the current rates, benchmarks, and eligibility criteria for all income support payments.

 

There are many needs and many uncertainties currently facing low income and otherwise disadvantaged Australians and there are many guarantees at ACOSS could justifiably seek in this election context. But basic income protection and employment opportunity are fundamental.

 

In Australia, we have generally been committed to an unwritten rule of “a fair go for all”. For decades this has distinguished us from many other countries. However since the major economic restructuring of the last decade or so - both globally and nationally - this rule is no longer being applied.

 

• Australia has fallen from 7 th to 15 th in world ranking on the Human Development Index our worst ever score;

• 1 in 9 Australians now lives below the poverty line - including 556,000 children;

• there are now more poor people in Australia then a decade ago;

• income inequality is growing - the top 20% of income earners now receive 10 times more than the bottom 20%;

• 781.000 people can not get a job and 251,000 of these have now been unemployed for over 12 months;

• the number of long-term unemployed people is rising while the work experience and  retraining opportunities for these most disadvantaged Australians have declined markedly.

 

Too many Australians have failed to benefit from the fruits of the sometimes har sh economic reforms. It is in our collective self-interest to ensure that no group falls too far behind - the costs of an excessively divided society are very high and are paid by all.

 

While a government cannot give an ironclad guarantee that no-one will ever experience unacceptable hardship, it can put in piece public policies which minimise such instances and ensure prompt corrective action when they occur.

 

Unemployment is the biggest cause of poverty and hardship, and we know that properly designed on-the-job work experience together with appropriate training is the best pathway to a secure job for the most disadvantaged unemployed people.

 

Our social security system can at least provide the minimum level of support that people need to live decently. However, this highly targeted, lean and economically efficient social security safety net hag developed some gaping holes. At the very least, it must not be allowed to deteriorate further.

 

Anyone who aspires to lead Australia into the next century should be prepared to openly commit themselves to these two basic guarantees. In doing so, you could provide low income and disadvantaged Australians with at least a minimum level of income security and employment opportunity, as you lead our country through uncertain times into the next century.

 

We anxiously await your immediate response.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Michael Raper

President

 

 

 

LK