New agreement to push action on poverty

·2-min read

Unions and welfare advocates will work together to lift people out of poverty, secure full employment and remove barriers to women's workforce participation under a new agreement.

Following the federal government's jobs and skills summit last week, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) have agreed to work together to push for a range of policy changes.

These include raising the jobseeker payment from $46 to $70 a day, reforming employment services for Indigenous Australians and creating a simpler bargaining system.

Australia's unemployment rate is at a historic low of 3.4 per cent, but history also shows low jobless rates cannot be taken for granted, ACOSS acting chief executive Edwina MacDonald said.

"Achieving and sustaining full employment is key to lifting living standards, investment and productivity and bring people into employment who have so far been frozen out," she said.

Meanwhile, an inquiry into poverty, the cost of living and the adequacy of the welfare system has been launched five decades after a major review.

The Labor government supported a Greens motion in the Senate to examine the extent and nature of poverty in Australia.

"I've heard directly from countless people about how poverty has an acute impact on nearly every aspect of their lives," Greens senator Janet Rice said.

"This inquiry will hold wide-ranging hearings across the country, enabling people who have been forced to rely on woefully inadequate payments to have their voices heard.

"When millions of people in this wealthy country are one car breakdown or dental emergency away from total financial ruin, surely as elected representatives of the people, it is our moral obligation to do something about it."

The opposition branded the motion as "too broad" but didn't propose any amendments before it passed on the voices.

Liberal senator Jonathon Duniam said the inquiry was unlikely to be completed in a timely way or provide "measurable new insights".

The community affairs committee has been given a reporting date of October 31, 2023.