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Vinnies identifies three million Australians living in poverty

Three million Australians are in poverty and one in five households lives with constant financial stress, a federal parliamentary inquiry has been told.

Altogether, six million people over the age of 15 have an annual income below $16,000, and the predicament of those "caught in the jaws of low incomes" has been prolonged by rising prices, the St Vincent de Paul Society said in its submission to the Senate inquiry into poverty and financial hardship.

Australia should consider following the example of Ireland and Britain in devising a national strategy which requires treasurers and finance ministers to work towards specific targets for alleviating poverty, the society said.

It said no private renters from the bottom 40% of household incomes could afford to buy "any dwelling in any location" in Sydney.

The Senate community affairs references committee closes submissions today and will report in September.

The centrepiece of this strategy should be to cut current levels of child poverty by at least 75% and adult poverty by at least 50% within a generation, a sister agency, Catholic Welfare Australia, said in its submission. There should be a statutory commission into poverty reduction with powers similar to that of the Productivity Commission, it said.

Over the past 13 years, education and urban public transport costs had both risen by far more than twice the rate of inflation. Health costs had also increased by about twice the rate of the general cost of living, it estimated.

Sydney Morning Herald

St Vincent de Paul Society

31 Mar 2003