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Social justice update – October 2012

Strategic Plan for the next three years released

The St Vincent de Paul Society has finalised its Strategic Plan for 2013 to 2016 entitled ‘One Society One Voice’. Spirituality and sustainability, service and speaking out are the priority focus areas for the Society in Australia over the next three years. National President, Anthony Thornton said: “This Strategic Plan challenges us to be clear in our desire to serve Christ in the Poor, to fearlessly speak out against the causes of poverty and inequality, and to build a more sustainable St Vincent de Paul Society in Australia. The ultimate plan of this goal is to equip us as members of One Society to give hope to all of the people we assist. Our message is that no matter how hard things get, we will always be there for them to give them assistance and to stand up for them with One Voice,” Mr Thornton said.

Anti-Poverty Week 2012 comes to a close

Hailed as the week where ‘we can all do something about poverty’, Anti-Poverty Week 2012 was the subject of national media attention when it was held from October 14 to 20. The Society played a vital role in promoting and hosting events to raise awareness of poverty and disadvantage. The awareness week kicked off with the launch of the Poverty Report by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) on Sunday, October 14. The report’s findings were disturbing, with 1 in 8 adults and 1 in 6 children found to be living in poverty in Australia. This prompted the Society to renew its call for an immediate increase of a minimum of $50 per week in the Newstart allowance. The campaign to increase Newstart was also the focus of the Society’s Anti-Poverty Week media release and subsequent media articles. Chief Executive, Dr John Falzon made the point: “Newstart has not been raised in real terms since 1994 and is among the lowest unemployment benefits in the OECD. At only 42% of the after-tax minimum wage there is plenty of room to increase it without it in any way being a disincentive to work. It is actually now so low that it has become a barrier to participation.” A Senate inquiry into the adequacy of Newstart is due to report its findings on November 29.

Sole parents’ legislation passed

In the same week that the Prime Minister gave a now-famed speech in Parliament on misogyny the Senate passed legislation that will see over 140,000 sole parents, mostly women, shifted onto a lower support payment in the New Year. The Social Security Legislation Amendment (Fair Incentives to Work) Bill 2012) was passed by the Senate on October 10 much to the disappointment of community sector and human rights groups who lobbied the Government to defer the legislation until after the Senate Committee had released its findings on the adequacy of the Newstart payment. In an opinion piece published on the Eureka Street website, Dr Falzon wrote that the fundamental flaw of the legislation was that, though it would result in a saving of $728 million over four years, it would do nothing to assist sole parents into employment. The Society has continually called for an expansion of training, support and advocacy programs to better assist individuals in securing employment.

Electricity prices under scrutiny
The Senate Select Committee on Electricity Prices is scheduled to deliver its findings on November 1. The St Vincent de Paul Society made a submission to the inquiry in September. By way of background, the Society has been monitoring the increases in electricity prices over many years in various States and is considered an expert in this field. In 2012 the Society released reports in February, July and August comparing electricity prices in Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales. Furthermore, the Society sees the provision of energy as a social justice issue and has written many submissions and reports on the matter including changes in electricity and gas pricing across South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.

Upcoming events
Restorative Jutice Week will begin on Sunday, November 14 and run through to November 20
– The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) will hold its AGM inconjunction with a Policy Forum in Sydney on November 16
– The International Day of Tolerance is also marked on November 16
Universal Children’s Day is an annual awareness day held on November 20
– November 25 is recognised as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Twitter
On October 21 @gavindufty the Society’s Victorian Manager of Research and Policy tweeted: Analysis on the changes in electricity costs using the Vinnies tariff tracking tool The Herald Sun and Adelaide Now.

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