Poverty inquiry report misses the mark during cost of living crisis

1 March 2024

“…those that already have enough get more, those who don’t have enough don’t get enough to survive…there is nothing fair about this, but it is the way this country works.” - 12-year-old Ben, quoted in the Senate Inquiry report

At a time when people across Australia are faced with the dire impacts of a cost of living crisis, the final report of the Senate Inquiry into the extent and nature of poverty in Australia is ultimately a disappointment to those who contributed evidence and personal stories and had hope for real action.

While the ideas contained in the report have merit as standalone approaches and there are a number of worthy initiatives underway, the report lacks a clear vision and comprehensive agenda for tackling the rising rates of poverty in Australia.

“It’s welcome to see the report emphasise the importance of lifting income support, rebuilding employment services programs and making sure all children can access high quality early childhood education and care. But these good ideas by themselves are not enough. We need a clear vision and an agreed national agenda for how the Federal Government tackles rising rates of poverty in Australia,” said BSL Executive Director Travers McLeod.

“It is disappointing a Senate Inquiry has failed to propose an overarching plan to address poverty during a national cost-of-living crisis. In contrast, the 2004 Senate Inquiry recommended a comprehensive anti‑poverty strategy be developed within 12 months and involve a coalition from government, business, the community sector, income support recipients and experts in the field. It recommended regular reporting to the Prime Minister on poverty measures, benchmarks and targets.

“In 2024, nearly 50 years after the report of Australia’s first official inquiry into poverty, there are still no official poverty measures in Australia, and poverty rates have barely budged in the past two decades. We need to make poverty reduction a much bigger part of our economic story and a measurable, national priority," Mr. McLeod said.

Poverty imposes an enormous cost on Australian communities and the nation. It is well within our capacity as a country to reduce and to prevent it. We simply cannot expect poverty reduction initiatives to succeed if Australia doesn’t have a clearly defined national strategy and poverty measures in place to be tracked and reported on by Government.

We know poverty is a policy choice. It’s time to make poverty reduction a priority.

Read BSL’s submission to the Inquiry into the extent and nature of poverty in Australia here .

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Steph Jones,
BSL Communications and Media Manager
0482 163 395