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New report calls unemployment a 'national disgrace'

The new Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, will this morning launch a report arguing that the social distress of hundreds of thousands of unemployed and very poor Australians is a `national disgrace'.

Titled Surviving, not Living': Disadvantage in Melbourne, the Catholic Social Services Victoria says that the plight of unemployed Australians should shake others from their complacency, and it makes a mockery of our rhetoric of a `fair go' for everyone.

According to the report, the `trickle-down' economic policies of the last 25 years have left more than two million Australians in poverty or unemployed, while upper-income groups are enjoying unprecedented prosperity. Richer Australians have prospered as a result of policies that have kept others in acute hardship and distress. This continuing situation is morally intolerable and profoundly unjust.

Catholic Social Services is the peak body for 80 Catholic social service organisations in Victoria.

Executive Director Fr Joe Caddy, said: "It is astonishing that in a country as wealthy as Australia, so many people are forced to endure such hardship and poverty."

He insisted that the great majority of unemployed are not complacent, but "desperate to find suitable work".

The report calls for a renewed commitment to full employment policies by all political parties, so that the burdens of recession and economic adjustment are not borne disproportionately by the most vulnerable groups in society. Surviving, not Living urges debate over alternative economic policies used by some other OECD to ensure a more equitable distribution of employment and income.

Surviving, not Living: Disadvantage in Melbourne presents the results of a project by Catholic Social Services Victoria to draw policy implications from interviews with 40 low-income and severely disadvantaged people in Melbourne.

Catholic Social Services Victoria