Abysmal Centrelink payments create serious poverty and must be increased

Photo by Darren England/AP

Given the neglect in last month’s budget of those who depend on Centrelink payments, the continuing lag far behind. So are the real in wages of many workers. This and the rapid rise in prices are the reasons why the deepening cost of living crisis is a living reality for most of Australia. We don’t need a pile of statistics to tell us this.

Australia is approaching a point, where we must consider the road on which we are traveling. Do we want to live in a society and economy that values us as human beings? Or alternatively, should we continue where human beings are treated merely as a resource to be exploited and commodities to be bought and sold? The choice is between raw capitalism, with its celebration of personal greed, or lifting all of us towards a better and fairer future.

How a society treats others, especially those who are worse off, says a great deal about its character and potential to move forward successfully in difficult times. And we are in difficult times, which are set to get even worse. Now is a good time to decide which way to go.

Making those at the top of the pile much richer than they already were, has done nothing to bring about a more successful economy and social inclusiveness. It has done the opposite.

Life proves that economic policy focusing on giving to the investor is a false solution makes matters much worse. Sure. Investment is necessary. But it must go to where it’s needed, and the largely unrestricted market has failed to deliver this. Continuing with this will continue the failure.

Investment in people is what is important. So they can participate and contribute. Investment in infrastructure that meets the needs of the day, is the way forward to a stronger, fairer, and more participatory economy and society. Setting the foundations for new industries of the future, which are sustainable and create real jobs is another urgent need.

The Anglicare Australia’s cost-of-living index released on Thursday 13 June 2024, doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t know in general terms. But it does back how badly Australians depending on Centrelink payments are doing with solid evidence. The report shows this this part of Australia doesn’t have enough to meet basic needs like adequate food, groceries, clothing, transport. or a decent home.

A single person living in a shared house is left with $127 a week after the most basic essentials have been taken care of. A single parent is worse off, with $24, a little over $3 a day.

It has never been this bad. Rising poverty is a contemporary reality, and with it, grows the number of sleeping rough, and the less visible inadequately housed. A much bigger part of Australia is cutting back on discretionary spending, because they can now only afford the basics. How far can this go before something far worse happens?

The Robodebt inquiry has delivered its report and ignored that the imposition of unwarranted debts on so many of those depending on payments from Centrelink was no accident and a deliberate policy to punish the poor. It has attracted enormous criticism and calls for a new inquiry. To say there should be is a no brainier. It also reveals that our political elite lacks empathy and has a different agenda than serving justice.

Why not start pulling in the opposite direction by insisting that the right to an acceptable standard of living is a basic human right and applying it? All Centrelink benefits and low wages should be lifted out of poverty to the minimum wage to meet this. All would be encouraged to understand that a society where we look after each other is a better one to live in for all of us.

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