The federal election campaign has raised issues like marriage, paid parental leave, cracking down on people smugglers, and managing the federal budget. What there fails to have been is a serious discussion on the state of poverty and homelessness across our nation.
The ACL places a strong emphasis on changing the state of poverty and justice in Australia through public policy; as Christians, we are called to be “generous to the poor” (Proverbs 19:17) and to “give to the needy” (Luke 12:33).
This week, the Pastor of a church in Sydney’s Kings Cross urged the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott to focus more on the needs of the unemployed and homeless during this election campaign. In an interview with ABC News’ Sally Sara, he says the most vulnerable in our society, including the homeless and asylum seekers, are being dehumanised by the level of fear in the current political debate, and that more and more, we are becoming a country with no heart.
Also this week, welfare group St Vincent de Paul Society demanded an anti-poverty strategy for Australia in the election campaign. Its CEO Dr John Falzon said that nearly 13 per cent of the population was living in poverty, including more than half a million children. The group has called on both sides of politics to commit to meeting the Homelessness White Paper target of halving all homelessness by 2020.
According to Homelessness Australia, there are over 105,000 homeless people in the country. That means that on any given night, 1 in 200 people have no home to go to. The rate of homelessness is also on the rise; the 2011 Census showed that in five years, the rate of homelessness increased by eight per cent. This is caused by a number of reasons, including a chronic shortage of affordable and available rental housing, domestic and family violence, and financial crisis.
ACL’s Katherine Spackman recently interviewed Mission Australia’s CEO Toby Hall about the need for political parties to address the issue of homelessness in Australia. Mr Hall said that both sides of politics have been weak on the issues; Kevin Rudd has loosely made comments about halving the poverty rate in Australia by 2020 but this has not been backed by any policy or money, and there has been very little focus on it by the Coalition. Mission Australia is asking both sides to partner together to provide the necessary resources and affordable housing to combat poverty and homelessness on our streets.
In the lead up to the federal election, the ACL sent a questionnaire to political parties designed to educate voters of party positions on issues of particular importance to Christians. Follow this link to find out their answers to the homelessness question.