An AntiPoverty Week Open Letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

In an open letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during Anti-Poverty Week, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and the Campaign for Australian Aid, along with 36 signatories, have called on the Australian Government to take meaningful action to fight domestic and global poverty.

The call comes after huge cuts in foreign aid in recent federal budgets.

Earlier this week, ACOSS released its Poverty in Australia Report 2016 in partnership with the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW, with the support of the Australian Communities Foundation (Social Justice Fund), St Vincent de Paul Society, Mission Australia, and the Salvation Army.

It shows that 731,300 children or 17.4% of all children in Australia are living in poverty, an increase of 2 percentage points over the past 10 years (from 2004-2014, while nearly three million people were living in poverty in Australia in 2014, or 13.3% of the general population.

See a snapshot from the report below.


Open Letter to the Prime Minister

“No Poverty” is the number one UN Sustainable Development Goal that the Government signed in 2015. Those goals apply globally and here in Australia.

This week is Anti-poverty Week and we are writing to you urging you to commit the Government to ending poverty here in Australia, while also doing our fair share as a good
global citizen to ending poverty globally.

Domestically, the Australian Government has committed to at least halving poverty “in all its
dimensions according to national definitions.” To date, no national definition of poverty has
been adopted by the Government. We urge it to adopt the OECD poverty line, set at 50% of
median income.

By this measure, there are an estimated 2,990,300 million people or 13.3% of the population
in Australia, living below the poverty line. It is unacceptable that after 20 years of economic
growth, our wealthy nation has not made real progress in reducing poverty. Of particular
concern, child poverty has increased in the last decade in Australia.

We require a national plan to tackle the scourge of poverty that diminishes us all in one of the
wealthiest countries in the world. The first action in this plan should be an immediate increase
to the unemployment payment, which sits more than $100 below the poverty line.

One of the world’s greatest achievements in the early 21st Century was a stunning decline in
human suffering. In 1981, 44 per cent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty and
today, it is believed to be less than 10 per cent and falling. The number of children dying before
their fifth birthday has halved in two decades.

Global co-operation and humanitarian aid has made a profound difference and Australians have contributed to these successes through our Australian aid efforts.

Experts agree that we can get close to eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 if countries work
together. While other countries are increasing overseas aid, your Government has cut aid to the lowest it has ever been. It is time to increase aid funding to move us quickly towards our global promise of 70 cents in every $100.

This Anti-Poverty Week, let’s convert our international commitment to reduce poverty in
Australia and overseas into meaningful action.

The letter is signed by ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie and the Campaign for Australian Aid’s Director Tony Milne, with the following signatories.

Snapshot of poverty in Australia – in 2014

From the Poverty in Australia Report 2016

  • The poverty line (50% of median income) for a single adult was $426.30 a week. For a couple with 2 children, it was $895.22 a week.
  • 2,990,300 million people (13.3% of the population), were living below the poverty line, after taking account of their housing costs.
  • 731,300 children under the age of 15 (17.4% of all children) were living below the poverty line.
  • Child poverty in Australia increased by 2 percentage points over the decade 200304 to 2013-14.
  • 1% of people receiving social security payments were living below the poverty line, including 55% of those receiving Newstart Allowance, 51.5% receiving Parenting Payment, 36.2% of those receiving Disability Support Pension, 24.3% receiving Carer Payment, and 13.9% of those on the Age Pension.
  • 3% of people below the poverty line relied upon social security as their main income and 32.1% relied upon wages as their main income.
  • Between 2012 and 2014, poverty rates increased for: children in lone parent families (36.8 to 40.6%), those receiving Youth Allowance (50.6 to 51.8% and those receiving Parenting Payment (47.2 to 51.5%). They remained very high (61.4% to 59.9%) from 2007 to 2014 for unemployed households.
  • The vast majority of people below the poverty line were in rental housing in 2014 (59.7%), with most in private rental housing (44.2%). Only 15.5% of people living below the poverty line were home-owners.