Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 6 October 2021) . . Page.. 2815 ..
had the greatest impact in lifting people out of poverty for people on Newstart or youth allowance.
ACTCOSS finds essentially the same in its cost of living report. During the period from 27 April 2020 to 24 September 2020 the Australian government introduced the coronavirus supplement at a rate of $550 per fortnight, which was effectively doubling the rate of the JobSeeker payment, lifting it above the poverty line. It was estimated that, alongside JobKeeper, the $550 per fortnight coronavirus supplement saw the ACT’s poverty rate drop to 5.2 per cent in June 2020, well below the pre-COVID poverty rate.
ACTCOSS points out that, by October 2020, JobSeeker had returned to below the poverty line as the coronavirus supplement was reduced to $250 per fortnight. It was estimated that the poverty rate in the ACT subsequently increased to approximately nine per cent, representing an estimated 38,300 Canberrans. That is an extraordinary change in just a couple of months of only four percentage points. That key issue of social security payments of a person’s income has the most direct and significant effect on the poverty rate in the ACT and on tens of thousands of people’s opportunities in Canberra. This is why you will see us, and so many others who work with the community and particularly with disadvantaged people, fighting to raise the rate.
It is the reason my federal colleagues are talking about the need for tax reform in this country. We are a wealthy country. We have the means to provide a decent income for everyone in this country. It is a matter of political choice. At a federal level we need to take decisions not to give those on the highest incomes tax cuts but to actually tax them at a fair rate and use that as an opportunity to help lift so many Australians out of poverty.
Of course, the ACT government can and should take actions. I will briefly touch on some of the many actions that this government is taking to address the difficult issue of poverty through the parliamentary and governing agreement between Labor and the Greens, as well as a range of specific new measures in response to the pandemic and the recent requirements for lockdown.
Addressing inequality is a major focus of the parliamentary and governing agreement and the government’s actions in this Assembly. My colleagues have talked to me similarly about these before. Let me just list some of those PAGA items. They include a plan to review increased funding for the community sector; increased emergency accommodation funding through OneLink; expanded specialist homelessness service capacity; expanding the number of properties that can access assistance under the affordable community and housing land tax exemption pilot; and an improved extended care system for 18- to 21-year-olds in the out of home care system.
As Minister Davidson discussed in the Assembly recently, these are policies that reflect the nuanced understanding of the intersecting causes of poverty in the territory. They include the relationships between poverty and health, gender, violence and issues affecting First Nations community members.