The Greens have today introduced the Ending Poverty in Australia (Antipoverty Commission) Bill 2023 to the Senate. The bill lays out a legislative framework for the interim Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee, but without the glaring problems of the current model.
If passed, the Anti-Poverty Commission would provide Parliament with independent and transparent advice on the causes of poverty in Australia, how to reduce it, and advice on the minimum levels for social security payments, including JobSeeker, the Parenting Parent, Youth Allowance, the Age Pension, and the Disability Support Pension.
This advice would be given by independent Commissioners, appointed in consultation with state and territory ministers, and under scrutiny of a Joint Parliamentary Committee, as is done with the ANAO and the NACC.
The bill also includes a legislated requirement to establish a National Poverty Line, which will enable the Commission to refer to a benchmark when measuring poverty and reviewing social security payments.
If passed, this would be an historic and important step towards ending poverty, marking the first time an Australian government has adopted an official poverty line.
Senator Janet Rice, Greens social services spokesperson said:
“Right now, woefully inadequate government payments are leaving millions of women, children, uni students, jobseekers and renters in poverty.
“Australia needs a fully independent, transparent and representative commission to advise the Parliament on our social security system and what needs to be done to fix it.
“While the Greens support the concept of the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee, Labor’s current model is led by a former minister with members appointed entirely at the Government’s discretion, and is constrained by needing to take into account the government’s current policies.
“It’s unclear if anyone on the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee has any lived experience of poverty or surviving on social security payments. It does currently include the Chair of the Business Council of Australia.
“In contrast the Commissioners of the Anti-Poverty Commission would be free to give advice based on the evidence, and not be caged-in by the Government’s fiscal strategy and existing policies.
“Australia needs a national definition of poverty, one that takes into account different needs and contexts, and one that the government can be held accountable to.
“For far too long, governments have used the lack of an accepted measure of poverty as an excuse to keep people living on inadequate payments.”