ACT poverty takes centre stage in election debate

The ACTCOSS 2020 ACT Election Leaders Forum has now been watched by over 8,500 viewers.

The CEO of the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS), Dr Emma Campbell, said that the forum had been streamed to the public via RiotACT and had given voters an opportunity to hear the party leaders’ views on a range of community issues.

“Most importantly, we were able to focus attention on poverty in the ACT,” Dr Campbell said.

“It is a fact that before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were approximately 30,000 people in the ACT living below the poverty line. Since March, the number of Canberrans looking for work and receiving JobSeeker and Youth Allowance payments has more than doubled. As a result of a $300 reduction in the Federal Government’s Coronavirus Supplement rate from 25 September 2020, 15,000 Canberrans who are presently receiving these payments will be plunged back into poverty.

“We need to reduce poverty in Canberra through a decent welfare safety net, affordable housing and improved community and health services.

“We note that the three leaders agree that income support, such as JobSeeker, is inadequate. Chief Minister Andrew Barr has supported a rise in JobSeeker for some time and is now also calling for a rise in pensions, including the Disability Support Pension. The ACT Greens have long supported the Raise the Rate campaign.

“We are pleased that the Liberals’ Alistair Coe has now indicated that he supports a rise in JobSeeker.

“We need these local leaders to exert pressure on their federal counterparts to provide an adequate social security safety net.

“We also need further investment and policy reform from an incoming ACT Government to ensure affordable housing and adequate health, family and restorative justice services in the ACT.”

Dr Campbell said that ACTCOSS welcomed the opportunity yesterday to put some forthright questions to all three leaders about their past performance and future plans.

“Our members and the voters of Canberra expect us to ask tough questions of our leaders.

“We asked Chief Minister Barr why housing stress is so persistent in the ACT, and why the ACT Labor government has not been able to address Canberra’s high rents.

“We asked Canberra Liberals leader Alistair Coe just how he planned to pay for his housing initiatives, given his commitment to a rate freeze.

“And we put the ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury on the spot, asking what he had done to ensure the achievement of all actions promised in the ACT Greens-ACT Labor parliamentary agreement.”

Dr Campbell said she welcomed the ACT Greens’ announcement of its Supporting the Community Sector package, including more funding and funding certainty, the establishment of a Community Recovery Cabinet Committee and driving a gender-led recovery.

She also welcomed Labor’s announcement yesterday of $350,000 for community services IT infrastructure and today’s announcement of $125,000 to support the sexual health of Canberrans.

Dr Campbell said that voters could judge for themselves how well the leaders had explained their policies by accessing the ACTCOSS 2020 ACT Election Leaders Forum here.

“With the rest of the Canberra community, we are keenly awaiting more election commitments between now and the start of voting in the next few weeks.”

ACTCOSS views on the coming election can be found in our election platform releases here.

Next release: Disability on Friday 4 September 2020.

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.

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