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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 6 October 2021) . . Page.. 2821 ..

Canberrans should know that the leading voice for the community sector, who support those who are doing it toughest in Canberra, also advocates to raise the rate. So, too, do the ACT Labor Party and the ACT Greens.

Another day has passed while discussing poverty in this city—another motion, another sitting day—and we still have not seen any indication from the Canberra Liberals that they are prepared to reconsider their position and join with us, in a tripartisan effort, to ask our federal government to fulfill their constitutional obligations and drag people out of poverty.

Many members have spoken of individuals that they have met and that they serve in their communities who have experienced varying degrees of poverty and economic injustice while living in a wealthy city, and I get that. Canberra is a rich city and it is probably the hardest place in the country in which to be broke. But it is important to stress that the evidence lays clear that while the cost of living pressures in the ACT do continue to increase—and I do not shy away from that—raising the rate of income support payments to the level that over 150 community sector organisations campaigned for would see those living in poverty much better off, in spite of increases to those cost of living pressures. It is about context, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is about reflecting on those levers that we as parliamentarians can pull.

I do not want to be too unfair to the Leader of the Opposition and sound like I am getting up here and just beating the Liberals, because I must say that, to be honest, I found the Chief Minister’s response to a question during question time today on the subject of poverty to be a little bit disappointing as well. I understand the commitment of government to want to get people who can work into work, and job creation should be a high priority of any progressive government. Once again, a non-partisan, evidence-based approach to the numbers shows that that is statistically impossible.

According to the labour market information portal by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the ACT currently has 9,971 people unemployed, yet only 6,200 jobs are available. If you assume from that, Mr Deputy Speaker, that every single person currently unemployed is adequately qualified to fill the 6,200 jobs, you will still see a shortfall. You will still see thousands of Canberrans who are unable to access the workforce.

I raise this point because I am always frustrated by what I call the Current Affair narrative—hashtag dole bludgers—from some in our community and some that dog-whistle to that point of view. I am not suggesting any of those people are in here, before anybody gets upset, but it exists. There are those who will call me a bleeding heart leftie wanting to run up the debt and make it harder for government to build things and run things because I just want to give people money. “Hand out that blank cheque,” they will say about raising the rate. But even if every single person who could work filled every single job that this economy has created thus far, thousands of Canberrans still could not work. Every day that the federal government make the choice to keep federal income support payments, their constitutional obligation, below the poverty line, that is a political choice to keep thousands of people in our city doing it tough.

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