Poverty has increased sharply over the past decade across Australia with the share of Aussies relying on ‘food banks’ nearly doubling:
Guardian Australia has collated data from the past decade from the three major food relief providers nationally – Foodbank, OzHarvest and SecondBite – and spoken to organisations working in or connected to the food relief sector, as well as people directly using these services. The evidence is overwhelming: demand for food relief was rising before the pandemic hit, even before the black summer bushfires that preceded it.
Food relief organisations all say the same thing: they are helping more people than ever before…
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OzHarvest has expanded from nine vans distributing rescued food in 2011, to 70 in 2021. The 3m meals it handed out in 2011 pales in comparison to the 36m it reported in 2021. Each year, the scale of the charity’s work only increases…
SecondBite was founded in 2005. By 2012, it was rescuing enough food to provide about 2.8m meals a year. This rose to 20m by 2016, and a whopping 35m by 2018-19. The charity’s most recent annual report, for 2019-20, includes the first few months of the pandemic. It delivered a record 41m meals to hungry Australians…
The story is similar over at Foodbank, which distributed 46m kilograms of food in the 2021 financial year, a 90% increase comparedwith the 23m kg handed out in 2011-12…
A 10-year analysis of these statistics is significant; in 2011 and 2012 the Gillard government implemented key changes to welfare policy, particularly around single parent payments and disability support pension eligibility, which bumped hundreds of thousands of people on to lower jobseeker payments. Howard government changes to the way the payments are indexed mean jobseeker payments have not kept pace with pension payments, or the general cost of living, even considering the government’s $50 a fortnight increase in March. The base rate of the dole is $45 a day. Depending on which measure you use, it’s either $20 or about $35 a day below the poverty line…
Kristen O’Connell at the Anti-Poverty Centre [said]… “There’s a very simple solution to people not being able to afford to eat, and that’s giving people money. The government showed last year that it can do this overnight and they are making a political choice not to do it now”…
Sam Horsburgh is the man behind the desk at Mission House [said]… “the equation was actually really simple: if you’re on Centrelink, you probably don’t have very much money”.
In March, the Morrison Government removed the Coronavirus Supplement, which temporarily doubled the rate of JobSeeker. This meant that JobSeeker fell to only $44 a day – way below the poverty line:
This rate of JobSeeker is also far below both the minimum wage and Aged Pension, as illustrated clearly below:
One has to wonder why recipients of the Aged Pension – many of whom are wealthy due to owning their home – receive $61.50 a day when JobSeeker recipients receive only $44 a day, given the latter is typically far more financially vulnerable.
Finally, Australia’s income support payments to the unemployed are the second lowest in the developed world, only beating Greece:
For years Australian policy makers pretended to care about ‘solving’ poverty. For a brief moment they succeeded accidentally when the government temporarily doubled JobSeeker via the Coronavirus Supplement, as illustrated in the first chart above.
Then the Morrison Government undid its good work by driving JobSeeker back to the pitiful level of $44 a day, while also imposing crushing ‘mutual obligations’ on the unemployed.
This came after the Coalition showered businesses with $130 billion of budget largesse via JobKeeper and the Cashflow Boost.
Let’s be very clear: the decision to slash JobKeeper to such pitiful low levels is purely political. The federal government could easily eradicate poverty if it wanted to, simply by permanently lifting the JobSeeker rate to the poverty line.
Sadly, our governments prefer to throw money at their business mates than actually help those in most need.