Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 19 October 2005) . . Page.. 3881 ..
• the establishment of wage subsidy schemes for people in low paid employment, with a particular focus on exempting the wages of low-paid workers from payroll tax; and
• report to the Assembly in the first sitting week of March 2006.
I am putting forward this motion today for two reasons: firstly, because it is Anti-Poverty Week and there is a well-deserved emphasis on the state of poverty in our region and, secondly, because the elimination of much of the poverty in the ACT is within our reach if we are prepared to take action.
We are all well aware that Canberra is a fortunate place when it comes to income and education standards, as they are, on average, almost the highest for any Australian state or territory. But, although our average Canberran is much better off than elsewhere, there is still a substantial number of ACT residents living in poverty, and the federal government plans substantial changes that may well keep them trapped in the poverty cycle.
My motion recognises those in our region who are living in poverty and seeks to support them in practical ways. The motion recognises the link between employment and poverty, and the difficulties that low-income or low-skilled workers face when engaging with our work environment. The motion also calls on the government to investigate methods of improving its support for low-income and low-skilled workers. Please note that, while I understand that poverty can be linked with many factors beyond employment, I am focusing on employment today as I believe that there is a gap in the debate in the ACT about what can be done within this portfolio by the ACT government to assist our residents.
How many ACT residents are living in poverty? First, I would like to outline the nature of poverty in the ACT. Again a caveat: poverty statistics vary along with the measurements and who does the measuring. According to the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, in 2005 the ACT has the lowest poverty rate in Australia at 6.5 per cent. Patrick Stakelum, ACT demographer for the Chief Minister’s Department, estimates that 8.6 per cent live in poverty.
Bishop Pat Power said on Monday at the launch of Anti-Poverty Week that approximately one in 12 people in the ACT live in poverty, equating to around 25,000 people. However, in all states including the ACT there are proportionately more children than adults living in poverty. This is because households deemed to be living in poverty tend to have more children living in them than adults. Having children tends to cost quite a bit of money.
What link is there between poverty and employment? The most obvious link between employment and poverty is unemployment, as it is well established that the best defence against poverty in today’s world is a full-time job. Once, it was access to land and peasants who worked for you for nothing. In many other countries today it is the number of children and supporting relatives. But in this country at this time it is a full-time job. Other factors can be linked to a person’s lack of income that provides an adequate