Cairns Anti Poverty Network members gathered this morning outside the Cairns DFO pre-polling centre to send a final message before election day. They called for the next government to slash poverty with a single stroke by lifting the rate of JobSeeker and pensions.
“Poverty is a policy choice. And it is the choice that successive governments have chosen for many of us in Far North Queensland”, declared Pat O’Shane, Kuku Yalanji trailblazer, former magistrate, and candidate for Leichhardt.
“I grew up dirt poor in a shack shared with my parents and younger siblings. Today Australia is a rich and modern country, yet poverty is rising again.
“For a short window in the early days of the pandemic this Government significantly lifted the incomes of many people on income support through the Coronavirus Supplement introduced on April 27, 2020.
“That was the day when Australian poverty was slashed in half through a single initiative. Lives drastically improved in Far North Queensland”, she said.
Community housing providers, Access Housing and SHAC (Shelter Housing Action Cairns) reported that their tenants were able to clear rent arrears – in many cases for the first time. St Vincent De Paul saw a 78% decline in requests for assistance in Far North Queensland (April 2020 compared with April 2019).
“But it was short-lived. As the supplement was wound back in early 2021, St Vincent De Paul and other welfare agencies saw requests for emergency relief rise sharply.
“We used to talk about people falling through the cracks. Now increasingly there is no floor.” said Renee Lees, rally organiser, spokeswoman for Cairns Anti-Poverty Network and Senate Candidate.
“This election has heard talk of the housing crisis, cost of living and stagnating wages. But the incomes of Australia’s poorest have largely been overlooked, with neither major party prepared to commit to lifting payments above the poverty line.
“The Cairns Anti Poverty Network asks voters to assess parties by their commitment to a future where no one is left behind. We ask our next government to choose dignity over poverty and raise the rate of JobSeeker and other income support to at least $70 a day. The Greens and Socialist Alliance have committed to that.” explained Lees.