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Vinnies blames GST for poverty increase

The St Vincent de Paul Society yesterday released a report that claims the GST is partly responsible for the increasing gap between rich and poor Australians.

It described the GST as the biggest curse inflicted upon the poor in the past 100 years.

The report warns that Queensland is facing the prospect of becoming the poverty capital of mainland Australia.

The society's Queensland president, Tim O'Connor, said the Federal Government's mutual obligation policy should be as incumbent upon those who are wealthy wage earners as it is on society's poorest.

"We would much rather see people develop a sense of charity by genuine motivation rather than imposing rigid methods," he said. "At the same time the report highlights that there is a need to have a serious look at the taxation system, particularly those benefits that are only enjoyed by a small number of people on very large incomes."

The report argues for more training in life skills, greater tax relief for low income earners and a requirement for big business to hire long-term unemployed workers.

Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) president Michael Raper backed the report, suggesting governments avoid increased numbers of long-term unemployed through judicious fiscal policy and planning for the next downturn.

"Income distributions, homelessness, poverty, all these things have increased. More and more people are finding it difficult to get access to decent standards of health care and education and so on," he told reporters. "There's not a risk of a Third World scenario in Australia, but there is a real risk of the social cohesion that we've cherished in Australia breaking down."