Vinnies defends stance in welfare debate
    The St Vincent de Paul Society yesterday dismissed as absurd any suggestion by the federal government that it was not qualified to take part in the welfare debate.
    Speaking at yesterday's launch of its Christmas Appeal, the Society's NSW/ACT President Pat O'Flynn described as 'absurd' government assertions that it is not qualified to express it views on the causes of poverty.
    He said: "We are involved in sitting down with the underprivileged and with the marginalised and we do that everyday."
    The federal government had earlier yesterday dismissed a St Vincents' report warning of a growing gap between the rich and poor.
    "I just think that their analysis of government policy is wrong and the excellent work they do amongst the poor people of our country doesn't necessarily mean that their analysis is always right," Employment Services Minister Tony Abbott told Sky Television.
    Abbott, a former seminarian, had written a three page letter to the Society in which he said: "I tremendously admire your practical work but confess a suspicion that, on some points, people such as [Aboriginal leader] Noel Pearson might have shrewder insights about the structural and cultural factors behind poverty in Australia."
    He had claimed said the Government's approach to delivering employment services such as Job Network and Work for the Dole "coincides with the traditional Catholic principle of 'subsidiarity"'.