There are currently more than 3 million Australians living in poverty, and 739,000 of them are children. People relying on Newstart, Youth Allowance and other related social security payments are experiencing the highest rates of poverty of any group. People in low paid or insecure work comprise 38% of the 3 million people living in poverty.
Increasing Newstart and Youth Allowance would be the single most important step to address current poverty levels among Australians. Deloitte Access Economics has found that it would boost local economies and employment, delivering benefits across the whole economy.
Not only do these social security payments need an immediate boost, but it’s also important that they are set by an independent body. Baptist Care Australia supports establishing a new statutory authority to set social security payments at a level that maintains a basic healthy standard of living.
People living in poverty are experiencing increasing difficulties affording nutritious food, and demand for food support services is growing. Ongoing funding for food relief programs is essential to ensure families can survive when incomes are too low to provide for their needs.
Another key stepping stone for people transitioning out of poverty is safe, secure and affordable housing. The Everybody’s Home campaign prioritises an increase in Commonwealth Rent Assistance and the construction of 500,000 new affordable and social rental dwellings to address the housing needs of people on the lowest incomes.
To address poverty in Australia, income support payments must be adequate, housing affordable, and there must be ways for people to access the education, jobs and training that will lead them out of poverty.
The poverty line
The poverty line is an internationally accepted measurement to determine the minimum income people need to receive in order to secure the necessities of life. The poverty line is measured at 50% of median household income. In Australia, this is $433 a week for a single adult living alone. For a couple with two children, it is $909 a week.
After taking account of housing costs, more than one in eight Australians live below the poverty line. Sadly, the poverty rate amongst children is much higher, with one in six living in poverty. All told, there are more than 3 million Australians living in poverty, including 739,000 children.
You can read more about how poverty is defined and measured in Australia here.
The social security safety net is there to catch us when we need it – when we get sick, when we lose our job, when we have a disability, when we have children, when we care for others, and when we retire. Baptist Care Australia believes a strong social security system is the foundation of an inclusive and productive society. Its clear purpose is to prevent and alleviate poverty by supporting those unable to earn enough to provide for their basic living needs.
Government payments need to be at a rate that adequately reflects the actual cost of living and job seeking. Currently, 36.1% of people receiving social security payments are living below the poverty line. Raising the rate of Newstart, Youth Allowance, and other related payments is an essential step in addressing poverty.
It’s important that social security payments are set by an independent body that considers all the evidence in a fair and balanced way. Baptist Care Australia believes a new independent authority needs to be established to do that.
We particularly want to see a substantial increase to Newstart and Youth Allowance to help meet the needs of people on the lowest incomes and provide enough support to help them move out of poverty.
Do one thing…
Every action, no matter how small, helps to create a better for Australia. As you talk about the nation you want to live in, you help to create change.
If you’re worried about the level of poverty in Australian communities, you can join the ACOSS campaign to raise the rate of Newstart, Youth Allowance, and related social security payments. By signing the petition, you will join a number of prominent researchers, politicians and business leaders who think the current low rate is harming both job-seekers and the economy. The ACOSS pages include a briefing note you can take with you when you meet with your local member, and help with a range of other actions you can take to raise the profile of this issue in the media and among decision makers.
Once you’ve done something, don’t forget to tell us you’ve taken action so we can thank you and keep in touch with you about the issues you care about.
Writing to your local federal member, a minister, shadow minister or even the local newspaper is an old campaign technique that still wields clout in the 21st Century. When an election is on the cards, these tried and true methods take on an importance they don’t normally enjoy.
- Find your correspondent and their contact information:
- Local member
- Federal Minister
- Minister responsible for housing
- Minsiter responsible for social security
- Minister responsible for domestic violence
- Minister responsible for aged care
- Shadow Minister
- Shadow Minister responsible for housing
- Shadow Minister responsible for social security
- Shadow Minister responsible for domestic violence
- Shadow Minister responsible for aged care
- Local newspaper
- Write and send your letter or email setting out how you’d like our housing system to change. You could include details about your personal experience of the issue, things you’ve seen in your community relating to the issue, and how you’d like your community to be different (you might like to read the advice from Parliament House about contacting members and senators).
- Tell us you’ve taken action!
It’s easy to call your local member’s office and ask for a meeting (you might like to read the advice from Parliament House about contacting members and senators). When there’s an election on the cards, local members are in their communities talking and listening to voters to understand what they care about. If you’re actively involved in helping to respond to the issue in your community, your voice is especially powerful, so don’t be afraid to share your experiences and ask for action!
- Find your local federal member by searching your postcode.
- Call or email your federal member’s electorate office in your local community and ask for a meeting. Include your home address so the office knows you’re a constituent, and also mention the specific topic or issues you’d like to discuss in the meeting.
- If you don’t receive a response, follow up a week after the initial call or email. Electorate offices are busy places and sometimes things do fall through the cracks.
- When you attend the meeting, dress and act respectfully, but there’s no need to be formal. Local members are used to interacting with members of the public and will generally accept you for who you are. They might not agree with you, but they will accept your right to raise it with them.
- During the meeting, thank your member for taking the time to meet with you, and give a verbal summary of how you’d like things to change for people on the lowest incomes. You might like to print a copy of our summary or the Raise the Rate Campaign briefing note to take to the meeting to leave with your member for reference.
- After the meeting send an email thanking your member for his or her time, and following up any topics or questions raised in the meeting.
- Tell us you’ve taken action!
An election forum is a great way for your church or community group to hear from all your local candidates about the issues you think are important in the election. You might choose one or several of the topics in our federal election platform to raise with the candidates standing in your electorate.
- Organising an event is often easier if you have a small group to help. So a good start is to ask a few friends whether they’d like to help.
- Decide on a date, time and venue for your forum that will suit both the candidates and the members of your audience. It’s helpful to check what else is happening in your electorate to avoid clashes with other important events that your candidates or audience members
- Choose what topics you’d like candidates to speak about at the forum. A simple but effective approach is to frame questions on your topics for each candidate to answer at the forum.
- Invite all the candidates standing in your electorate to attend the forum to discuss the topics you’re interested in:
- Local member
- Other candidates – Liberal, ALP, Nationals MPs, Nationals candidates, Greens, One Nation, Katter’s Australia Party, Centre Alliance, Australian Conservatives
- There may be independent candidates standing also, and you might need to find contact information for their campaign office through an internet search or via the Australian Electoral Commission website.
It can be helpful to let candidates know the questions you’d like to ask in the forum, and whether you’ll be inviting the audience to also ask questions once you’ve addressed the main topics you’re interested in. If you’re not sure what questions you’d like to ask, some suggestions are below.
- Invite a suitable person to host the forum, ask the questions of your candidates and manage questions and discussion between candidates and the audience.
- Promote your election forum widely within your church or community group.
- Run your forum as planned.
- Afterwards, don’t forget to thank all your candidates for participating, and for the people who have helped you run the event.
- Tell us you’ve taken action!
Suggested forum questions – poverty
- The levels of Newstart and Youth Allowance have dropped significantly compared to the cost of living over the last 24 years. Do you support increasing these payments to provide an adequate level of support for people trying to survive on social security?
- One way of making fair decisions about the levels of social security is to give the job to an independent commission to avoid politicising the issue. Do you support this?
- What are your plans to improve food security and access to nutritious food for people living in poverty?
- What plans do you have to improve the availability of affordable housing for people on low incomes?
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are over-represented in statistics relating to people living in poverty. What are your plans to address this issue?