Lest we forget the post-election reality: poverty in Australia

The ‘miraculous’ election victory of the centre-right coalition suggests that the majority of Australian voters have, once again, entrusted their faith in the status quo. Unfortunately, accepting the status quo also means accepting the grim reality that poverty in Australia is high by OECD standards.

A recent evaluation uses an accepted international benchmark to conclude that more than three million people – or 13.2 % of the population – fall below the poverty line (defined as those earning below 50% of median income and adjusted for housing costs). The report also suggests that Australia has the 14th highest poverty rate among 34 OECD countries – see here for comparative data.

During the campaigns that were held prior to the Federal elections, one heard a lot about taxes and budget surpluses, but hardly anything about ways in which poverty in Australia can be reduced on a sustainable basis. Does anybody recall the major political parties making a bold and compassionate commitment that they will seek to reduce poverty in Australia to one of the lowest levels among OECD nations over the next five years? Such a proclamation would require a serious rethinking of inclusive economic and social policies and go beyond hackneyed statements about a ‘fair go’ society.

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