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Priest laments election campaign poverty bypass

Victorian state convenor of this week's Anti-Poverty Week, Fr Joe Caddy, has expressed his disappointment that the issue of poverty rated barely a mention in the recent Federal Election campaign.

Speaking at yesterday's Victorian launch Anti-Poverty Week, Fr Caddy (pictured) said: "The fact that 700,000 children live in jobless households, and that at least 1 million Australians are acknowledged to live in poverty or extreme economic hardship, did not rate a mention in the campaign."

In a statement prior to the launch he said that despite the fact that overseas aid or the plight of Australia's most marginalised people barely rated a mention in the recent federal election campaig, "there is a groundswell of concern in our community about those who are falling behind and an increasing determination to do something about it".

"In Victoria alone more than thirty events involving thousands of people have been organised through local communities and organisations to raise awareness of poverty in our midst and overseas," Fr Caddy said. "Governments and policy makers would do well to listen to the voices that are calling for a fairer distribution of the world's resources and greater opportunities and protection for those who are suffering hardship."

The report of the launch in The Age today points out that the most prominent mention the issue of poverty received in the campaign was the omission of an authorisation tag from the "Vote 1, No More Poverty" campaign material, which was non-party political. The campaign was organised by the St Vincent de Paul Society in association with a number of other Catholic, Anglican and Uniting Church agencies. When a poster landed in a marginal seat, a candidate from one party complained to the Electoral Commission about the lack of authorisation on it, and the poster was withdrawn.

World Vision head Rev Tim Costello - brother of Federal Treasurer Peter Costello - suggested that perhaps it was the parties themselves who were out of touch with the people.

"I think individual Australians are generous and want to be. The parties are out of step in terms of overseas aid and offering targeted welfare programs to the most needy over here," the Reverend Costello said.

Activities organised for Anti-Poverty Week are set out on the Week's website. They include last night's Catholic Social Services Victoria Oration delivered by Sir Gustav Nossal, titled Eradicating Poverty for Healthier Communities.

Meanwhile the Catholics lobby group PolMin issued a statement stressed the interconnectedness of complex social and environmental issues that add up to an increase in poverty.

Spokesperson Victoria Kearney spoke of the opportunity that presents itself for members of the community to change their attitudes to public policy development and cross jurisdictional government management.

"Policy areas need to be considered in a new way, with a new attitude, which ensures that policy decisions support the common good and acknowledge the interconnectedness of planning issues and policy development... The complex interdependency of issues management, requires a committed approach to a whole of government public policy development. ... It is time to more effectively join the policy dots!"

Call to arms in war on poverty (The Age 19/10/04)
Eradication of poverty: A people's movement (Catholic Social Services Victoria 15/10/04)
Water, Food, Poverty, time to join the policy dots (Australian Political Ministry Network Ltd 18/10/04)

Anti-Poverty Week
Catholic Social Services Victoria
Australian Political Ministry Network (POLMIN)
Payments gave poorest slice of boom (Sydney Morning Herald 19/10/04)
National call to govt: make poverty a top priority (UCA National Assembly 18/10/04)
Call for national anti-poverty plan (Seven News/Australian Associated Press 18/10/04)
Call for national anti-poverty plan (Sydney Morning Herald/Australian Associated Press 18/10/04)
New project links churches in fight against poverty (The Church Newspaper 15/10/04)
National call to govt: make poverty a top priority (UCA National Assembly 18/10/04)
National call to govt: make poverty a top priority (Australian Council of Social Service 16/10/04)

19 Oct 2004