Page 3887 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 19 October 2005

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The poverty-proofing initiative is one of a range of the government’s key commitments in the social plan to help achieve a place where all people reach their potential, make a contribution and share the benefits of our community. And Anti-Poverty Week is a reminder to all in the ACT community that not everyone shares equally in the benefits that living in Canberra brings. Poverty proofing the ACT government’s policies and programs is another step towards strengthening our community and will bring greater opportunities for us all.

We applaud the motives behind this motion and we thank you, Dr Foskey, very much for raising the issue in this particular week. We need to understand that poverty is a multiheaded monster; you cut one off and another one will grow back. We need to have a holistic approach to this, and I am grateful to Dr Foskey for bringing forward one of the areas of poverty that seems to be the greatest mountain for people to climb. We need to have some compassion about that. I do not purport to have the answers, but we do need to understand that there is a range of things that cause and perpetuate poverty. We need to remember too that houselessness is not homelessness; you can have people who are homeless in their own homes; you can have people who are poor in a rich suburb. We need to make sure that none of that goes on. We need to lift up the lowest common denominator so that everyone has a life of high quality.

The government will be supporting Dr Foskey’s motion and I wish to express our appreciation for the sentiment expressed and her commitment to it. I would also like to express our appreciation to Bishop Pat Power for his role in the forum today at Pilgrim House, and to Kerrie Tucker for her leadership in it. We are ably led by those two people in attacking poverty in this town.

MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (5.09): It is interesting, yet I suppose not surprising, that the Greens have taken this approach to discussing poverty this week, when we have seen the launch of Anti-Poverty Week. I was initially pleased to hear that Dr Foskey wanted a debate around poverty—which is becoming a yawn in this place—but, sadly, of all the motions debated in this place today none has done anything for the people of the ACT. Indeed, all we have had is conjecture, crystal ball-gazing into the future, scaremongering, doom and gloom and any other cliché you can think of.

I would like to firstly address the particular focus of Dr Foskey’s motion, which deals with employment rates and distribution in the ACT. Firstly, it is almost a given fact that the ACT has one of the lowest—if not the lowest—unemployment rates in the country and the highest disposable incomes. Of course, the government proudly parades and takes credit for these statistics. That information is taken from page 20 of the recent Canberra social plan figures. I believe employment is a cornerstone in aiding not only an individual but also a community in poverty reduction. There may be some disparities but there is a fairly even distribution of income across households in the ACT. That is not to say we do not have a problem that has to be addressed. One in 13 adults and one in nine children living in poverty in the ACT is not a figure desirable to be faced with.

If we were to profile a person living in financial hardship, it would come as no surprise that that person is likely to be young, in receipt of government benefits, living in public housing, in a lone parent household or unemployed. Again that comes from the Canberra social plan. We really need to ask ourselves, as I have done: how do we define and

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