“A report released today by the Community Council of Australia is a damning indictment on the Government’s lack of action in addressing poverty, suicide rates and carbon emissions", Australian Greens Spokesperson on Family and Community Services Senator Rachel Siewert said today.
The Australia We Want report shows rising inequality, rising suicide rates and above-average carbon emissions across Australia.
“We have known about these issues for years now, yet the Federal Government continues to cut funding to social services while giving tax cuts to the rich.
“Australia is one of the richest countries in the world, ranking in the top two for household wealth. We can afford to invest in services. Yet under the Abbott/Turnbull Governments we’ve seen cuts to Centrelink, Homelessness services, frontline Aboriginal services and a failure to address inadequate income support payments. The Government is hell-bent on attacking the poor to plug their budgets.
“In my home state of Western Australia we have the highest suicide rates in Australia, female participation in the workforce is the second lowest, incarceration rates are 50% higher than the national average, and CO2 emissions are rising more than any other jurisdiction, making Western Australia the lowest ranking jurisdiction. This is unacceptable. The wealth from the state’s mining boom has not been invested wisely so that we now see a rise in inequality, rather than investment in services.
“Incarceration rates in the Northern Territory are not only four times higher than the national average, but even higher than the global outlier in incarceration rates, the United States. We have known what we need to do on this issue for over 25 years now. The Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody made 339 recommendations, a large number of which have not been implemented.
“As the report’s author David Crosbie said, these incarceration rates are the canary in the coalmine. They tell us how our most vulnerable are being treated.
“I know that this is not the Australia that I want and that most Australians wouldn't either. We need urgent funding to mental health programs to address the rise in suicide, particularly in Aboriginal communities.
“The Government needs strong policy settings that include a National Poverty Plan and we desperately need an evidence based social security system for the 21st century.
“I hope that this report will be a wakeup call to the Government on the urgent action that is required. Even if we are simply looking at it in economic terms – it is widely accepted by economists that countries with large gaps between the rich and poor have a worse overall economy”.