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Government tries to deflect poverty inquiry.

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Wayne Swan MP Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services

Government tries to deflect Poverty Inquiry

The Department of Family and Community Services and Senator Sue Knowles have tried to discredit current measures of poverty in an attempt to deflect the Inquiry into Poverty and Financial Disadvantage from focusing on solutions.

In a cheap re-run of Tony Abbott’s assault on the Society of St Vincent de Paul, Senator Knowles challenged the Society’s understanding of what constitutes poverty.

Senator Knowles stated that she found it hard to accept that a family of four living on $400 a week are poor. She also suggested that many battlers are struggling because of their consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and their gambling habits.

Today, representatives of the Department of Family and Community Services attempted to undermine the debate about poverty by pointing to the deficiencies of Australian Bureau of Statistics income data.

These attacks are a blatant attempt to deflect attention from the Government’s inaction in the face of the clear evidence of growing poverty of opportunity in our community.

Senator Knowles’ comments demonstrate the Government is still in the business of demonising those Australians who have fallen behind.

The Government could have used the inquiry process to bring new ideas to the table to tackle the growing divide, which the Vincentians warn threatens to create ‘two Australias’.

Instead, it has resorted to denial and vilification.

Senator Vanstone’s department’s submission did not contain a single recommendation for tackling poverty.

The 2.4 million Australians living in poverty, including 1 million who have some work, are looking to the Government for a hand-up not a brush-off.

The 850,000 Australian children who are growing up in jobless households want access to opportunities, not a life of poverty and ill health.

Measuring poverty is important, but not as important as tackling it.

It’s about time the Government stopped working against the inquiry and started cooperating with it.

ENDS Friday 20 Jun 03 Web:

Contact: Wayne Swan on 0418 795 329 Michael Lye on 0407 012 088