Catholic Welfare submission to Poverty Enquiry
Catholic Welfare Australia will argue to the Senate Poverty Inquiry that "poverty
is not a simple fact of life but the result of the way we choose to structure our
society. We can choose to reduce poverty if we decide to."
the Executive Summary of Catholic Welfare Australia's submission to the Senate
Community Affairs References Committee Inquiry into Poverty and Financial
Hardship. Catholic Welfare will be presenting it's submission on Friday in
Poverty is not a simple fact of life but the result of the way
we choose to structure our society. ItŐs causes are as elusive and complex as any
other experience of human suffering. Still, we can choose to reduce
poverty if we decide to. The primary influence on material poverty in Australia
is unemployment. Ted Evans, former Treasury Secretary, shocked the policy
community in 1993 when he said that we choose the level of unemployment. If he is
right then we also choose the level of poverty.
The Catholic perspective
is that the fight against poverty must enjoy a pre-eminent position in the
GovernmentŐs list of policy objectives. This is what Catholic social teaching
calls the preferential option for the poor. We can choose to focus first
on those in greatest need and ensure their interests receive the most weight in
the calculus of economic and social policy. We can choose to make poverty
reduction a key priority for policy reform.
But we have not chosen to do
this. The national commitment to the fight against poverty in Australia is tepid.
This is partly because current social values insufficiently reflect a sense of
solidarity for those in need. But it is also a failure of policy. Only
governments have the fiscal and legislative means to approach a social problem so
complex, so deeply connected to the institutional structures of our
We are not as rigorous in our efforts to reduce poverty as many
OECD nations. In the European Union, strong and rigorous anti-poverty strategies
are now being implemented. The UK and Irish anti-poverty strategies are far
superior to Australian efforts to date.
This will cost us. Entrenched
poverty flows primarily from long-term unemployment. A systematic approach to
reducing unemployment and moving persons from welfare to work will increase
participation in the labour market considerably. This will lead to higher GDP per
capita. It will also improve the wellbeing of all Australians by improving social
cohesiveness. So an effective National Strategy for Poverty Alleviation will
raise the average living standards in this nation.
A summit into poverty
should be convened urgently to build consensus for social change. A National
Strategy for Poverty Alleviation must be formulated, including numerical targets
to significantly reduce poverty. A statutory Commission for Poverty Reduction
should be created to ensure that measurement of policy is rigorous and
apolitical, and to provide independent advice on performance against policy
All levels of Government have a role to play in the fight
against poverty. Therefore mechanisms to ensure the Federal model serves this
Strategy must be put in place.
We need to create a social and economic
environment that proofs the nation against poverty, reducing the risk of economic
disadvantage becoming socially entrenched. It will take at least 30 years to
implement. Still, when implemented, our kids will be living in a better Australia.
SOURCE FULL SUBMISSION:
CWA : Submission
17 Jun 2003