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Land of the Fair Go

Today the Australian Council of Social Services ACOSS released its Federal Election statement "Towards a Fairer Australia".

The question it poses is simple - if Australia as a nation can't find it in its heart to help out the disadvantaged and ensure a fair go for all Australians during the economic ‘good times', then can we really continue to think of this country as the land of the fair go?

The Australian Greens support the call by ACOSS for a national action plan to address the needs of low income Australians. It fits in with my previous calls in the Senate for a National Anti-Poverty strategy. A good example of the success of such a strategy is given by Ireland.

I thought it might be helpful to list some of the commitments we've already made in the Senate to address the issues raised by ACOSS today in their call for a fair go for all. These issues are also front and centre in Greens policies.

The Greens believe that putting resources into the health, education and housing of children growing up with disadvantage is not just a moral imperative - it is an investment in the future prosperity and well-being of us all (see my speech on Poverty Postcodes delivered to last year's ACOSS conference).

I have been highly critical of the punitive approach to people on income support that underlies the Howard government's Welfare to Work reforms. Reducing the benefits to those on income support does nothing to help them find work and improve their quality of life when they are facing real barriers to employment.

The Greens believe that reforming income support to make it simpler and fairer together with a greater investment in education and training would result in much better outcomes. We are particularly concerned with the level of support given to single parents and people with disabilities, who have been hardest hit by these changes to income support.

Greens Housing Policy calls for the development of a National Housing Plan and the appointment of a Minister for Housing, Urban and Regional Development with Cabinet status. We also believe it is essential to review all existing subsidies and incentives for housing and property investment to ensure subsidies and incentives improve access to housing for low-income households.

If anyone truly deserves a fair go it is Australia's first people. The disadvantage experience by Indigenous Australian's is particularly stark - particularly given the black history of injustice they have experienced through dispossession, the removal of children and through stolen wages.

Justice for Indigenous Australians is an issue I feel strongly about and will continue to speak out on.

Bob Brown has spoken out on the need for a national dental plan.

We wait with bated breath to hear how the major parties respond to the call from ACOSS to make Australia fair, and we look forward to the rolling out of the Australia Fair campaign.

The Green's response is an enthusiastic two thumbs up!

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