ACT Election 2020: Targeted action on poverty, inequality and cost of living

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has today released its tenth of twelve 2020 ACT Election issue briefs calling for targeted action to address cost of living pressures for low-income households in the ACT. This coincides with the release of ACTCOSS’s annual ACT Cost of Living Report.

ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell, said: “Amidst the prosperity, significant poverty exists in the ACT. Approximately 30,000 Canberrans live below the poverty line.

“The ACT has the highest average weekly earnings in Australia. However, for those on low incomes, the cost of living in Canberra means many cannot afford the fundamentals of a healthy life such as food, housing, health services, and energy.

“Our 2020 ACT Cost of Living Report shows that over the past five years changes in the cost of living have hit Canberra’s low-income households the hardest. These households spend a greater proportion of their income on essential goods and services. Over the last five years, prices for some of these essentials grew significantly in Canberra, with medical and hospital services increasing by 28%, electricity and gas prices rose by 25% and 31% respectively, and housing costs increased by 15%.

“The ACT has the highest median rent for houses. House rents have increased by 28% over the past five years. In August 2020, Anglicare found that out of 768 private rentals advertised in the ACT, only 17 properties could be considered affordable for people on low incomes. None were affordable for a single person on the Disability Support Pension and only one was affordable for a single person on JobSeeker receiving the $550 per fortnight Coronavirus Supplement. Without the supplement there would have been none.

“Ensuring that people have adequate incomes and affordable housing is fundamental to reducing poverty and inequality in the ACT. We need a permanent and adequate increase to JobSeeker and related income support payments, to levels above the poverty line, to enable people to cover all basic costs, including keeping a roof over their heads.

“We are calling on the next ACT Government to urgently address the shortfall of over 3,000 social housing dwellings in Canberra.

“The next ACT Government needs to take a targeted approach to cost of living – one that is informed by a detailed understanding of community need. We need a system of taxes and charges that is more progressive, equitable and efficient.

“To achieve this, targeted concessions, rebates and subsidies must be designed to relieve cost of living pressures for households with low incomes or experiencing other forms of hardship. Tax revenue must be sufficient to fund quality services, affordable housing, and community infrastructure that address the structural causes of poverty and disadvantage while benefiting all of us.”

Dr Campbell concluded: “Better, fairer taxes and charges are key to Canberrans sharing our prosperity, alleviating poverty, and reducing inequality. For most of us, the ACT offers an excellent quality of life and supports a strong sense of wellbeing. A just and fair Canberra requires an inclusive economy – an economy that addresses the barriers that a significant number of people in our community face to sharing this experience. By reducing inequality, targeted measures, that address cost of living for people experiencing these barriers, will benefit everyone.”

Find ACTCOSS’s 2020 ACT Election issue brief on cost of living here.

Find other issue briefs at ACTCOSS’s ACT Election page.

Find the 2020 ACT Cost of Living Report here.

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

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