The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. It’s a terrible cliche, yet it is also a horribly accurate one.
According to a new Australian Council of Social Service Report, more than three million Australians live below the poverty line.
Of that number, more than 730,000 are children.
As a society, that’s a dark, dark stain on our social conscience, particularly in a country that has enjoyed 25 consecutive years of economic prosperity.
The most damning aspect of the report is that despite a quarter of a century of economic growth, the number of people living below the poverty line has not decreased.
How is that even remotely possible? It’s a blight on successive federal and state governments that they haven’t been seemingly willing or able to make a conscientious effort to make meaningful inroads.
Perhaps that is the problem – for too many people in positions of real influence or power, it is just a number – a faceless, meaningless number.
But for those people struggling to even pay their power bill or feed their family, the struggle is all-too real.
The sad fact is, Tasmania is always one of the hardest hit in terms of poverty.
We have the largest proportion of people living on some level of welfare.
Not surprisingly, we also boast the unenviable title of having the lowest average weekly income in the country.
And the numbers support this. TasCOSS – the Tasmanian Council of Social Service – says that more than 74,000 Tasmanians live below the poverty line. And like our national figure, we’re making no inroads into that.
Because of our state’s lower levels of income, it also means we have a larger proportion of “working poor” – that is, people considered to be below the poverty line despite having a paying job of some kind.
Tasmania also has a higher proportion of single parents. According to the ACOSS report, lone or single parents make up the highest number of people living in poverty at 33.2 per cent. This figure hasn’t changed, ACOSS says, in more than a decade.
So what is the solution? Simply taking an axe to people’s aged or single pensions isn’t the solution, despite what the federal government may be spruiking.
We need meaningful solutions that work without having a negative impact on the very people we need to help in the first place.