Balancing the picture on poverty
- Executive Summary
1. Executive Summary
best way to assist hardship is to have a job.
Government has overseen a strong growing economy, job growth and implemented a
number of effective initiatives to combat hardship.
Government Senators dispute the myth that ‘Australia is losing the fight for a fair go’.
- Australia has high and
rising living standards with the benefits having been shared widely across the
- Some Australians do continue to face serious
- This is a result of a number of factors, not
- Simplistic approaches such as broad increases in
income support do not identify types of hardship, nor do they address the
- National Poverty summits, jobs strategies or
statutory authorities to oversee a National Poverty Strategy are not
- Solutions cannot be achieved by Government
- Ongoing individual, family, and community
commitment and maximizing individual empowerment are integral to improved
- The key is economic and social participation for
all Australians, both in working age and retirement.
- There is a need to support and encourage
participation, self-reliance and mutual responsibility while assisting those
in hardship to improve their situation.
- In situations where assistance is required early
evidence-based targeted intervention works best.
On page 448 the figures at the bottom of the table
have been reversed and should read:
$1.5 billion: $2.4 billion
Government Senators recognise there are challenges to assist those who are
suffering from hardship. It is not something that can or should be solved by
more meetings, reference groups, taskforces or creating more bureaucracy but
rather having the government continue to make decisions that work to the
benefit of those very people. It would be even better if that was to be
achieved in a bipartisan fashion.
Government Senators view the Labor Report and its recommendations, not as a
serious attempt to enhance existing successful strategies but rather a shallow,
naïve and purely political attempt to condemn the government of the day. That
is a sad outcome for those for whom this inquiry was initiated.
would have preferred to deal with many of the issues in more detail however the
Labor Party Chair denied us a reasonable extension of time after we received a
most unexpected 420 page Draft Report. We requested four weeks to adequately
consider all that was contained in the Draft but were given a week otherwise
the Labor Party was going to table without comment from the Government
the Labor Party to suggest that Australia has a ‘rapid growth of inequality’ and ‘is
losing the fight for a fair go’ and ‘there is an increasing loss of
opportunity’ defies all logic and fact. It is an example of where politics
is put ahead of principle.
Government Senators were hopeful that such an inquiry would have resulted in a
report that seriously sought to strengthen the gains that have been made and
that, in the best interests of those affected by poverty, there would be a
genuine attempt to reach a bipartisan outcome.
problems of those affected by poverty are not easily defined, categorised or resolved. Their problems are not solved by simply throwing more money at them, expanding
non-effective approaches or setting up more Government committees.
Issues of poor educational attainment, physical and
mental health problems, family breakdown, drugs, alcohol, gambling, smoking,
illiteracy, disabilities, and indigenous heritage have all been identified, in
one form or another, as important drivers of poor outcomes.
is a statement of fact that Australia has one of the best and most generous income support
systems in the world. There are many systems in the developed world whereby an
individual has only a matter of weeks on income support (to which they must
have already contributed) before that support is cut off. No such scheme has
even been part of the Australian ethos.
are extraordinarily generous in providing income support for those who need it
but equally their 'fair go' attitude to life dictates there be a
requirement for participation and a system that does not encourage passivity
and dependence. The term 'mutual responsibility' is something to which
Australians can relate.
Government has shown a commitment to welfare reform including reform to
assistance to those of working age. It is that commitment which, it was hoped,
could have been enhanced with the outcomes of this Report if the Opposition has
been prepared to sideline their political hatchery.
Government senators therefore consider it important to provide a backdrop of
what has been achieved since 1996 prior to considering what programs can
usefully be enhanced to give some of the more marginalised people a greater
the current system works well for most people, at no stage are we, or the
Government, saying that everything that can be done has been done. Far from
it. Dealing with the issue of poverty is much more than glib comments such as "By
1990 no child will live in poverty ".
provision of over 1.3 million new jobs, well distributed between full and part
time employment and between men and women, has resulted in a massive 30% fall
in the unemployment rate since 1996 – from 8.2% to 5.7%.
have been more real full-time jobs created in the last six months than there
was in the last 6 years of the previous Labor government. The benefits of this
have had a broad geographic impact; almost half (46%) of local government areas
now have unemployment rates lower than 5%, compared with just 16% when the
Howard Government came to office. Also, there is now only one labour market
region that has an unemployment rate over 10% as against 15 regions in 1996.
best national jobs strategy is the implementation of government policies which
ensure strong economic growth, including low inflation, low interest rates,
budget surpluses, a flexible workplace relations system and a tax system which
does not penalise entrepreneurial activity.
Government has paid back $66 billion of the Labor Government’s $96 billion
debt, freeing up $5 billion a year in interest alone for new and expanded
economic management is not accidental and good economic management is not
something that should be taken for granted. The gains that have been made in
employment opportunities, real wage increases, low interest rates and low
inflation (that benefit rich and poor alike) are all at risk if glib, fanciful
and unrealistic targets and programs are instituted.
must also be recognised that assisting people facing disadvantage is not just a
Commonwealth Government responsibility. It is a responsibility that must be
shared by all levels of government, by communities, by churches and other
altruistic bodies, by business, by families and by individuals. The
Commonwealth Government has however sought to support each of these important
components of our society. It acts in partnership with state and territory
governments on important issues such as disability and housing through
also must be remembered that the Commonwealth collects the Goods and Services
Tax and pays the net value, in full, to the State and Territory governments.
The GST provides to the States and Territories $575 million more than they
would have received under the previous revenue sharing arrangements. By 2006
that figure will be $1.4 billion more and will continue to grow.
Government Senators believe that it is appropriate for government to take
responsibility for policies and to be accountable. Therefore, we cannot agree
that it would be either wise or necessary to adopt a recommendation (No. 95) of
the Labor Party to establish a statutory authority. This would only remove the
sense of responsibility of others, and the functions that such a body could
perform are already being undertaken.
worrying thing about such broad recommendations is that no government in the
world has ever accepted a figure on a poverty line as setting poverty targets
have no real benefit, they are a poor measure and are misleading and measuring
poverty through 'income' has found to be inaccurate. The United Kingdom
has spent over 12 months trying to come up with a definition of childhood
poverty and still hasn’t succeeded. There is ample evidence that the sort of
income poverty measures incorporated into these targets poorly measure the real
outcomes for people and that income based measures are based upon simplistic
assumptions that higher taxes and benefits will solve peoples' problems.
Ireland is often quoted as having set 'poverty targets' and
yet there is now extensive discussion in community organisations that these
'income poverty targets' have failed to deliver any real tangible benefit. Ironically, between 1994 and 2001, while low incomes rose strongly, Ireland's
relative income poverty levels increased from 15% to 22%, as median incomes
increased even more strongly.
is a list of key indicators that demonstrate the gains that have been made and
ones on which the Government senators had hoped Labor would want to build.
Table 1: Key Indicators
of poverty have many dimensions. While some people conceive of it in terms of
income, others emphasise levels of consumption, while still others view it in
terms of outcomes – what actually happens.
concepts of poverty such as capabilities consider the question in terms that
encompass individual attributes, needs and resources – as well as the ability
of people to use these.
has very clearly shown that when these concepts are measured, to the extent
they can be, there is at best little congruence between the approaches. For
example, a large group of the people who are seen to be in consumption poverty
are not the same as those who have been identified as being in income poverty.
Similarly, income poverty poorly identifies those people with the most adverse
outcomes. Not only does it describe as being in poverty many who show little
if any disadvantage, it defines many as not being in poverty despite the fact
they show much more adverse social outcomes than many of those identified as
being in poverty.
issue of income inequality in Australia also needs to be clarified. The Household, Income
and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey indicates that claims about the
inequality of income and wealth distribution can be misleading. Results of the
research show that wealthy households are generally middle-aged working
households who have been saving for many years, including building up
superannuation and other assets. The median wealth of a household headed by
someone in their 50s is around 10 times that of a household with someone in
their 20s.This is a reflection of lifecycle patterns in savings and
Australia also has a high degree of income mobility; meaning
that people's income and their wealth change with time. The HILDA survey
found that by 2002, 60% of people on the lowest income scale had moved up out
of this income bracket.
measures not only give simple and misleading results, they encourage simple
'solutions'. That is not what the Howard Government is about. The Howard
Government wants long term, sustainable solutions that will benefit as many as
more people in jobs reduces the risk of poverty and welfare dependence amongst
families with children. Early intervention policies, including investment in
early childhood programs and support to youth facing critical lifecycle
transitions, and family support services, such as the Commonwealth Financial
Counselling Program and the Family Relationships Services Program, also reduce
the risk of poverty.
conducted by the Department of Family and Community Services shows that young
people who grow up in households that rely on income support are significantly
more likely than other young people to receive income support themselves in
their late teens. Between the ages of 16 and 20 years, young people from income
support families were around three times more likely to be receiving income
support as young people from middle income families.
disadvantage, hardship and poverty is not as simple as giving people a few more
dollars in income support, yet this is what income poverty measures and the
Labor Party suggest solves the problem.
result of this is that adopting poverty benchmarks and targets, instead of
providing any guidance in how to reduce real problems and address causes,
simply encourages governments to pursue policies that reduce the target. Many
of the measures are also perverse.
relative poverty measures can suggest that poverty is falling at times when
living standards of the poor are declining. They also suggest that higher
taxes on middle and higher income earners reduce poverty – regardless of what
happens to the incomes of the poor.
Government senators cannot accept a National Poverty Summit (Recommendation 94)
will achieve anything more than has been achieved with this committee.
Government Senators believe there is a need to avoid creating anymore talkfests
or occasions for grandstanding. The views and preferred approaches of different
interest groups in this field are already well known – including through the
inquiry. What is needed is a better understanding– especially of issues such as
multiple disadvantage, early intervention and welfare reform.
Government has been identified as doing many of these.
- welfare reform consultations
- the funding of the HILDA report
and other Social Policy Research, and
- the funding and introduction of Australians
who call for a summit ignore the tremendous effort made by community and other
groups already, in their regular and important submissions to and consultations
Persons with severe
hurdles to employment
International and Australian research
suggests that the most successful approaches to help people improve their
prospects of employment include those with incentives that ensure rewards from
working and participation requirements tailored to individual circumstances and
capacity. This is the basis for welfare reform and the Australians Working
Together package, including Personal Advisers and the Personal Support
Table 2: Initiatives aimed at
encouraging participation by people of working-age
Personal Support Program
Provides support for people with major
non-vocational barriers to participation (implemented July 2002)
to Work program
Provides vocational assistance to
parents, mature age workers and indigenous job seekers who have been out of
the workforce (implemented July 2002)
Funds training for indigenous and mature
age job seekers (implemented July 2002)
Funds training for job seekers who have
participated in Work for the Dole or Community Work (implemented
Passport to employment
Provides job search support services for
Work for the Dole or Community Work participants (implemented July 2002)
Centrelink Personal Advisers
Provides participation support for target
groups including parents, older workers and ‘at-risk’ claimants of Newstart
Allowance (implemented September 2002)
Better assessment of people with
Provides better assessment services for
the purposes of assessing Support Pension and exemptions from the Newstart
Allowance activity test for reasons of temporary incapacity (implemented
Support for parents
- Provides additional child care places (implemented September 2002)
- Introduction of compulsory interviews where youngest child is aged
over 6 and participation requirements where youngest child is aged over 13
years (implemented September 2003)
Support for older workers
- Introduction of voluntary interviews for payments without
participation requirements, ie Mature Age, Partner and Widow Allowees
(implemented September 2002)
- Closing off of Mature Age and Partner Allowances to new customers
- Introduction of compulsory annual interviews for Widow Allowance
recipients (September 2003)
- Introduction of a flexible activity test for NSA recipients aged over
50 (September 2003)
Provides incentives to part time work by
allowing people to keep more of their income support payment when they
receive wages (implemented September 2003)
Support for Indigenous People
- Introduction of Indigenous Employment Centres to provide Community
Development Employment Project participants with the skills and experience
they need to make the transition into the paid workforce
- Centrelink to progressively establish 12 new Remote Area Service
Centres located to service remote communities
- Research to assist remote communities to identify practical ways for
their members to contribute to their families and communities in return for
income support through Community Participation Agreements
Language, Literacy and Numeracy
Assists with costs of attending training
courses (implemented September 2003)
Extra $160 million for disability
employment services (implemented progressively from July 2003)
December 2003 more than 145 000 eligible clients accessed the services of some
750 Centrelink Personal Advisers, and more than 100 000 participation plans
have been put in place.
a third of income support recipients experience a common mental disorder (e.g.,
anxiety, depression, substance-use disorder) in any 12 month period, compared
to 18 per cent of the general Australian population. This figure is even
greater among some client segments, with almost half of all lone mothers on
welfare experiencing mental health problems. Further, these conditions are
associated with significant barriers to economic and social participation.
most of those experiencing mental health problems do not seek help.
are a range of programs to help those with severe problems including:
- Disability Support Pension (DSP);
- Supported Accommodation Assistance
- Disability Employment Assistance; and
- Personal Support Program.
recent research shows a worryingly high prevalence of less severe, but still
disabling, mental health problems among income support recipients, especially
Government Senators note the Government is developing targeted interventions
for these, based on recommendations from the Centre for Mental Health
does have an important role in improving hardship, but it is not a universal
panacea. Simply to call for more training ignores the wide range of different
Government has adopted many strategies including work for the dole, access to
childcare, improving incentives and through personal advisors to ensure that
balance is right and meets individual’s needs. Work for the Dole has provided 40 000 man
years of valuable work experience, 15 000 community projects and 0.25 million
Australians contributing benefits to their communities and adding to their work
The Government, in 2003, has also almost doubled the number
of apprenticeships created compared with 1996.
International evidence from programs to
improve employability through education, training and subsidised work tends to
be mixed. Programs which are more employment–focused do improve employment
outcomes. Program outcomes vary, often depending on the individual’s
circumstances, including their level of disadvantage, skills, education and
training, and access to suitable labour markets.
There is evidence that community work
programs may deter some clients from continuing on unemployment payments,
instead inducing them to leave that payment rather than undertake the program.
Evidence also suggests some participants in the community work programs may
become ‘attached’ to the program and consequently reduce their likelihood of
gaining employment while on the program.
Government Senators recommend that initiatives that assist the transition
from welfare to work continue to be developed and implemented. These
initiatives should include those that:
- address the hurdles confronted by the
- improve job readiness
- address onsite and job-centred training
particular, the hurdles of language, literacy and numeracy should be
identified as priorities.
- Government initiatives should continue to be
evaluated and funding directed to those initiatives delivering outcomes for
those facing hurdles to employment.
minimum wage and labour demand
this Government average weekly ordinary time earnings for a full-time adult
male are currently $993.30.
- this is a real increase of over
$145 per week since 1996
- a total growth of 17.1%
- and an annualised compound growth rate
women the rate of growth is even faster
- 18.8% over the period February 1996 to
- an annualised growth rate of 2.2%.
growth rates are substantially above those recorded in earlier periods.
$145 per week increase in real earnings between February 1996 and November 2003
(a period of 7¾ years) compares with just a $45 per week gain in the 12½ years
from November 1983 to February 1996.
annual growth rate for males of 2.1% over the later period compares with just
0.5% for the period under Labor.
women the rates are 2.2% and 0.7% respectively.
1998 ABS have produced living cost indexes which consider the impact of prices
on different groups in the community. These show that the impact has been
relatively uniform, and in particular that the experience of income support
recipients has been similar to that of the rest of the community.
March 1998 the maximum single rate of age pension has increased by $36.40 a
fortnight more than it would have done under the previous tax system. The
effect of theses measures has been to increase the real rate of pension by more
than 7% above the CPI increase between March 2000 and September 2003. The
Australian minimum wage is amongst the highest in the world, both relative to
other earnings and in real terms. It has also grown substantially over recent
high minimum wage minimises the risk of having a large body of working poor, it
ensures there are reasonable financial incentives to take a job and it gives
employers an incentive to maintain workers’ productivity by investing in them.
it definitely makes entry or re-entry into the labour market more difficult for
some groups – especially the young unskilled. Employers will not take on
someone whose expected productivity is not high enough to justify the cost of
employing them. As no pay is clearly a bigger contributor to disadvantage in Australia
than low pay, unwarranted increases in minimum wages are likely to increase
rather than reduce the level of disadvantage in the community.
families with children have their wages supplemented by family payments. While
the current Federal Minimum Wage is around $431 per week, the net total income
of a minimum wage couple household that is renting, with a single income earner
and two children, is around $680 per week. - $130 to $250 a week above the
commonly used poverty lines for such a household.
for a single person, a full time minimum wage should put them some $70 to $150
a week above the usual poverty lines. Even where a person is employed
part-time, the interaction between income support and earnings is such that
they usually should be well above these poverty lines. Some minor exceptions
may arise to this for some youth in particular living circumstances working
short hours or at junior rates.
this some survey-based estimates talk of the ‘working poor’. Analysis of these
cases in the survey strongly suggests this reflects poor recording of income in
such surveys. These cases usually record implausibly low hourly rates of pay
(well below the minimum wage) or levels of family payments and income support
well below the rates for which such a household would be eligible. It should be
noted that much of the rhetoric around the working poor reflects the situation
in the United States of America. Attempts to draw parallels between low waged
employment in that country and in Australia are very misleading. For example, in the US the
minimum wage is $US5.15 an hour and excludes entitlements to leave. For a 40
hour week this gives a gross income of $US206 (less 10% tax), compared to their
official poverty line of $US178.
current exchange rates the Australian minimum wage is about $US340. In
contrast to Australia, where very few people (around 2%) are employed on
the minimum wage, large numbers of jobs are paid at this rate in the US.
most job seekers, unemployment is a transitory phase. However there are people
who, once they become unemployed, find it difficult to obtain suitable
employment. The social safety net performs a vital function as it provides
unemployed people with income and a variety of other support to help them meet
basic living expenses. It also provides a range of incentives and obligations
to help them actively participate in the community and so limit the amount of
time they need to be on income support. An appropriate balance of obligations,
assistance and incentives is essential for encouraging participation. This
needs to be supported by a fair but firm compliance regime with penalties for
Table 3: Minimum Wages Internationally
Government Senators recommend that we do not return to unnecessary
government intervention in the form of outdated labour market programmes,
which were proven to be unsuccessful in the 1970's and would be a
retrograde step to implement now.
Government continue to introduce further reforms, which increase labour
market flexibility while maintaining a safety net.
Asset rich and income
Government Senators recognise that Australians may be in possession of large
assets without having a large income stream.
Income support payments are means tested to make sure
that they go to those in most need. People with substantial assets, apart from
the home in which they live, are generally expected to use these assets to
support themselves rather than rely on other taxpayers for support.
the system has special provisions to help where this is not reasonably
feasible. There are hardship provisions that can allow assets to be
disregarded. Where this does not apply, the Pension Loans Scheme allows people
to effectively borrow against their assets for their lifetimes.
the Government also provides extra concessions for retiring rural people, such
as the foregone wages provisions, the aggregation rules, and concessions that
allow retiring farmers to hold their farm
in a trust so they can hand over the farm to the next generation without having
their pension affected.
the assets test a pensioner’s home is exempt from the assets test. However,
where the home is on more than 2 hectares (5 acres), the value of the land
in excess of the 2 hectares (called curtilage) is included as an
assessable asset for the purpose of the assets test. Where the value of the
principal residence is in excess of allowable curtilage it is likely to affect
a person’s income support payment.
The Government Senators recognise some farmers, in
particular, may be under hardship. Special
hardship provisions exist that assist Australians who have assets that they are
unable to sell, are in the processes of selling, or which it would be
unreasonable for them to sell.
Government also assists rural young people through access to additional
benefits such as Rent Assistance and Fares Allowance.
The Government evaluate the potential benefits and pitfalls of
easing the curtilage rules to assist mature-age Australians.
The Government Senators support the recent superannuation changes
including the introduction of market-based income stream products and the
Government’s co-contribution measures to assist those Australians on low-income
Australians are working than ever before - the proportion of the adult
population in paid work is at record highs (61% in January 2004). Both men and
women have increased their participation since 1996, although the increase has
been much stronger for women than men – a continuation of trends going back to
the 1960s. The growth in opportunity has also meant that those who work are
working longer hours.
the decline in men’s labour force participation, and especially older men’s
participation, which was a feature of the decades leading up to the mid 1990s,
appears to have stopped and even reversed in the last ten years. While some of
this may be the fruits of strong economic growth, there is reason to hope that
the measures the government has taken to encourage older men to stay working
have begun to take effect – the employment rate of men aged 55-64 has risen
from 55% to 61% since 1996.
the Treasurer’s recently released Demographic Taskforce Paper
highlighted, the challenges of increased social spending as a result of an
ageing population need to be addressed. A 2% increase in participation of the
nation’s population in the workforce would result in a 9% increase in the
nation’s GDP. Labor's opposition to creating an environment whereby people
over the age of 55 can work longer if they choose (either part or full-time)
ignores the desire of those concerned and overlooks the possible poverty
impacts in later life. That, we believe, was what we were aiming to overcome.
recommendations of the Majority Report involve simply greater expenditure on
new programs or existing ones. The Report as a whole is not a responsible
response in light of the Treasurer’s Demographic Taskforce paper.
time hours are popular with working Australian women – 45% of them work less
than 30 hours per work. This is one of the highest proportions in the world.
evidence strongly suggests that most of those working part time do so because
they prefer to – it allows them to balance work, family responsibilities and
leisure. More people of all working age now have greater choice, and the Labor
Party (it would be hoped) would stop wanting to remove or belittle that choice.
(15-19 years) unemployment has fallen from a high of 29% in 1993 to 17%. This
is still too high, but it must be remembered that the unemployed are only about
9% of the 15-19 population – many of the rest are studying full time.
surrounding children who have to leave their homes because of parental violence
are complex and variable.
Under Youth Allowance, young people who
leave the parental home due to parental violence or abuse are treated as
independent as it is unreasonable for them to live at home. Specialist
assistance is offered by Centrelink Social Workers.
are also several special programs to help youth:
provides early intervention support for young people, aged between 12 and 18
years, who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and their families. There
are 98 Reconnect services operating across Australia. In 2002-03 they helped 11,392 young people and their families.
Job Placement, Employment and Training Program (JPET)
offers ongoing support and referral services to young people overcoming a range
of problems, including housing, substance abuse, family difficulties, sexual or
other abuse, lack of self-esteem, reliance on income support, and other
barriers to employment, education or training. The program helps over 14,000
eligible young people each year.
Youth Activities Services (YAS)
Youth Activities Services Program supports young people (aged 11–16 years) and
their families to build self-reliance, strengthen family relationships and
encourage community involvement. The program provides after school activities
that are both creative and challenging and also have an aspect of positive peer
support. There are 91 YAS services currently operating.
to Work (TTW), which commenced on 1 July
2002, is a key component of assistance
for people returning to the workforce. The
primary objectives of TTW are to provide preparatory assistance that builds
self esteem, addresses confidence issues and improve individuals’ prospects of
obtaining paid employment through assessment, skills training, support and
advice on how to get into the jobs market. For some it will be the first step
in their return to paid employment.
Government Senators recommend
continuing increased focus on participation (return from welfare to work,
increased mature age participation) and self-reliance to maximise economic
growth and minimise personal hardship.
review of the structural and cultural barriers to mature-age employment.
Howard Government was extremely concerned about the Labor Government’s
breaching policy in which people had all benefits removed if they failed to
meet any of their activity requirements.
There was a need for a change that was fairer so the Howard
Government has done extensive work in this area in the quest to minimize
potential adverse impacts of breaching on vulnerable job seekers.
As a direct result of administrative improvements and policy
changes, breach numbers reduced by 30% in 2001-02, and 50% in 2002-03 and this
trend continues. Job seekers are now also given 14 days notice before a breach
penalty commences, compared to a ‘no
notice policy’ under Labor. This gives job
seekers more warning before they start to receive reduced payments and is one
of the recommendations from the Ombudsman's Review.
That the Government continue to
implement initiatives that decrease the number of clients breaching while upholding
the principles mutual obligation and joint responsibility.
States have a poor record on child protection issues, as a long succession of
scandals have indicated. There is little doubt that the justice and (Commonwealth-funded)
welfare systems are having to bear the burden of decades of inadequate
resourcing and poor management in this area. The neglect by the states of early
childhood intervention is one motive for the Australian government now
diverting funds to this.
A number of Australian Government initiatives recognise the costs
incurred by people with disabilities. Assistance includes:
- concessions linked to
the Pensioner Concession Card
- cash payments (e.g.
Mobility Allowance, Pharmaceutical Allowance)
- tax relief (e.g. the Medical Expenses
The Government currently funds approximately 430
non-government organisations to provide employment assistance services to
people with disabilities nationally. The Government also funds Commonwealth
Rehabilitation Service Australia (CRS) to provide vocational rehabilitation
In 2002-03 a total of 64,639 people with
disabilities were assisted by disability
employment services at a cost of $303.7
million, and a further 35,892 were assisted by CRS Australia at a cost of $113
million. The Government also funds a range of employer incentive programs that
seek to encourage and assist employers to employ people with disabilities that
include wage subsidies, a workplace modifications scheme, the Supported Wages
System and a Disability Recruitment Coordinator function.
State and Territory Governments have responsibility for the planning, policy
setting and management of accommodation support for people with disabilities.
However, we understand the Australian government is very concerned for the
accommodation needs of people with disabilities. The Australian Government
provides substantial funds to states and territories towards meeting their
responsibilities, and the latest version of the Agreement includes strong
reporting requirements so that all parties – and people with disabilities and
their families – can satisfy themselves that state governments are doing the
right thing by people with disabilities. Bilateral agreements with each state
and territory include strategies to improve systems for balancing long-term
accommodation demand with other early intervention.
urban planning, public housing policy and transport infrastructure have created
pockets of disadvantage in the major capital cities and in some regional areas.
Once created, these ‘poor neighbourhoods’ are a difficult problem to remedy, as
they set up vicious circles of low aspirations, low education and low
Housing is primarily a State Government
responsibility to which the Commonwealth makes a contribution. Many of the
issues associated with the cost and availability of housing are local and
better addressed at that level. For the 2003 Commonwealth State Housing
Agreement (CSHA), the Australian Government is providing around $4.75 billion
over five years. About $3.72 billon of this will be provided as base funding
which is primarily used for public housing. This will allow five years of
fiscal certainty for States and Territories to provide housing assistance.
The CSHA assists around 400,000
households. The 2003 CSHA features indexation for the first time. Currently
around $1.9billion is provided per annum for Rent Assistance supporting around
940,000 families / individuals.
The development of the Government’s programs
for housing assistance, the CSHA, the Rent Assistance Program for the private
rental market, and support for home ownership through the First Home Owners
Grant scheme, have ensured that the broader issues of welfare and support
services, employment, the housing industry, taxation, and other national
objectives are being taken into account.
The most important element of the
government’s present strategy for homelessness is to develop people’s capacity,
especially through Personal Advisers and the welfare reform agenda. The
Australian Government response to homelessness is being coordinated under the
National Homelessness Strategy, which recognises that homeless people have many
different needs and therefore need a range of responses. The Strategy is underpinned
by Supported Accommodation Assistance Program and includes a number of targeted
initiatives, such as the Family Homelessness Prevention Pilots.
and Territories have promoted gambling as a source of revenue. Their revenue
from gambling has grown enormously since 1992. Given the issues of transparency
and reporting standards for gambling revenues and related programmes in the
states, it is difficult to ascertain precise information on State and Territory
expenditure on gambling support services.
Estimates of the amount
spent on problem gambling services as a proportion of total gambling revenue
range from .04% in WA to .49% in SA – neither of which is a substantial part of
the revenues raised through gambling activities. Spending levels on problem
gambling services do not reflect the growth in revenue from gambling or in the
numbers of people experiencing gambling problems.
Table 4: State Gambling Revenue
and Territory revenue from gambling has increased markedly over
the period 1992-93 to 2001-02.
revenue growth increased by a massive 200% from $581.3 million to $1.7 billion.
- In NSW,
revenue growth was 91% from $918.2 million to $1.7 billion.
- Queensland revenue growth was 162% from
$290.7 million to $763.4 million.
Australia had a
similar revenue growth rate of 194% from $133.3 million to $392.4 million.
- WA revenue
growth was 63% from $173.5 million to $283.6 million.
revenue growth was 110% from $42.2 million to $88.6.
- ACT revenue
growth was 77% from $38.7 million to $68.5 million.
- NT revenue
growth was an enormous 270% from $13.3 million to $49.2 million.
Australian Government has led the way in addressing these problems. It has
- committed $8.4 million for research and
to raising public awareness of problem gambling
- established the Ministerial Council on
the Government Senators are not in the habit of making recommendations outside
their jurisdiction, they believe there are two issues that really require the
urgent attention of the States and Territories.
- That State Governments should
assist home buyers by reviewing their ever increasing stamp duty taxes on
houses as those increases virtually wipe out the benefit of the first home
- That State and Territory Governments
reduce their reliance on Gambling as a source of revenue and increase
investment in problem gambling programs.
card and social disadvantage
the Australian community, the incidence of ongoing credit card debt is
surprisingly low. However, it is a problem for a minority of people - not all
of them low income. A recent study of ABS data found that having credit card
debt is only weakly associated with measures of serious financial hardship.
Where such debt and hardship are found together, the household is often found
to be suffering serious cash flow problems that indicate poor financial
management of limited resources. In contrast, many elderly households are found
to have low incomes but are yet living quite comfortably.
suggests that financial education has an important role to play in reducing the
incidence of real poverty, and conversely that raising the cash incomes of the
poor may not be sufficient to lift them all out of hardship.
Government Senators support the development of the Government’s National
Consumer and Financial Literacy Taskforce and look forward to its
recommendations in August 2004.
That the Government continue to
recognise the need for financial counselling as an effective initiative in
assisting Australians in moving from welfare to work, and to prevent them
accumulating unsustainable debt
Australian Government has shown a commitment to working more closely with
Indigenous communities in establishing mutual obligation strategies and
developing sustainable partnerships. Policy development and program delivery
are engaging more directly with local Indigenous communities in the
identification of priorities, consideration of local needs, capacity,
participation and disadvantage. A significant example of participation is the
implementation of the Indigenous Community Coordination Pilots (ICCP), which
have been established in each State and Territory. ICCP is a Council of
Australian Governments (COAG) initiative and is based on the development of
partnerships between the local Indigenous communities, the Australian
Government and State/ Territory Governments. The extent of poor outcomes for
Indigenous Australians has been identified in the report to the Steering
Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision, titled “
Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2003”. This report
confirms that Indigenous Australians continue to experience marked and
widespread disadvantage. Indigenous Australian disadvantage is compounded by
the extensive diversity within the Indigenous community related to culture,
language, literacy, environment and regional isolation.
Government continue to assist Indigenous Australians through initiatives which:
- identify hurdles to employment and
- assist with the removal or overcoming of
- assist with the transition from welfare
Senator Sue Knowles
Party, Western Australia
Senator Gary Humphries
Party, Australian Capital Territory
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