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Vinnies shocked by growing rich/poor divide


The St Vincent de Paul Society was disturbed by yesterday's Senate Inquiry findings that the gap between rich and poor is widening, and also that the scope of poverty is more than merely low income.

Yesterday's results of the Senate Inquiry into Poverty and Inequality followed the most comprehensive and high-level investigation in the past 30 years.

The inquiry found 21% of Australians are surviving on less than $400 a week, which is below the $431 minimum wage. Prime Minister John Howard denied that means the poor are getting poorer and rejected the Committee's key recommendation that he establish a unit to co-ordinate a national strategy to fight poverty.

President of Vinnies National Social Justice Committee Terry McCarthy was impressed by the thoroughness of the inquiry.

"The shocking revelations and conclusions reached by the Committee were based on the most reputable official data used by Government Departments, private research groups, as well as charitable and welfare organisations," he said. "The research was backed by hard evidence, often very emotional, in written and oral presentations around Australia."

John Wicks of the same committee said the inquiry went beyond merely confirming the growing rich/poor divide.

"It also concluded, not surprisingly, that poverty is not simply a question of low incomes. It is grounded in, and nurtured by, inequality of access to employment (especially full time), affordable housing, education and training, health and dental services and a range of other public goods and services."

Catholic Welfare Australia issued a statement regretting that it had not been possible for the Government and Opposition to reach a consensus.

Chairperson Fr Joe Caddy said that without consensus, the chance of any of the recommendations going much further than on the pages of the Document itself is "very slim".

"We still stand firm in our conviction that addressing poverty and financial hardship in this nation will require a unified, non-partisan approach and commitment from all levels of Government, business and the community," said Fr Caddy.

Members of the Inquiry had been unable to agree on how to measure and define what it is to be poor.

Fr Caddy said: "In a country as prosperous and economically secure as Australia currently is, surely the inability to feed your children on a daily basis is measure and definition enough."

SOURCE
Catholic Welfare Australia: Fr Joe Caddy's press conference remarks
"Deprivation and Inequality - Another Australian Growth Story" (St Vincent de Paul Society National Council 11/3/04)
Political differences on poverty result in a lost opportunity for the poor (Catholic Welfare Australia 11/3/04)

LINKS
Senate Inquiry into Poverty and Financial Hardship | Report
Senate committee calls for national anti-poverty strategy (ABC Radio The World Today 11/3/04)
The poverty cycle: a personal account (ABC Radio The World Today 11/3/04)
One-fifth of Australians 'in poverty' (BBC 11/3/04)
Poverty report reveals awful truth of a nation in need (Sydney Morning Herald 12/3/04)
St Vincent de Paul Society
Catholic Welfare Australia


12 Mar 2004