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News News Australian poverty scandalous, says church
A CHURCH leader has urged major political parties to help the disadvantaged in the wake of "scandalous" findings that more than 10 per cent of the population lives in poverty.

The Australia Fair report released today said 2.2 million people - 11.1 per cent - were living below below the poverty line in 2005-06, up from 9.8 per cent in 2003-04.

The findings are based on Australian Bureau of Statistics' Survey of Income and Housing for 2006.
The report identified the poverty line in 2006 as income of $281 a week for a single adult without children, based on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) standard measure.

"It's a scandal that the numbers have gone up in those three years between 2003 and 2006, when our wealth was increasing each year," Uniting Church of Australia president Gregor Henderson said at the report's launch in Canberra.

"It's also a sad and scandalous fact that there's very little difference between our major political parties on their policies towards poverty and disadvantage," he said.

This was a time for the nation's political leaders to take more of a lead in sharing the wealth of this country with those who need it most, Mr Henderson said.

"And not in ways that are patronising or punitive or heavy-handed, but helping those who need a leg up in ways that are consultative and collaborative and genuinely caring."

Society of St Vincent de Paul chief executive John Falzon said: "Now, more than ever, it's time for a national anti-poverty strategy with targets to ensure that no one gets left out or pushed out".

Trends in poverty charted by Australia Fair showed a steady rise from below 8 per cent living in poverty in 1994.

Tasmania had the worst rate with 13 per cent of the population, and Western Australia the best at 9.5 per cent.

The report found people were worse off outside the capital cities, with 21 per cent of Tasmanians outside Hobart living in poverty, and 13.4 per cent of NSW residents outside Sydney doing it tough.

Senior citizens figured highly in the statistics.

The paper said 47 per cent of single adults aged over 65 lived below the poverty line.

Forty-five per cent of unemployed households, 41 per cent of those whose main income is social security and 25 per cent single adults of working age are in the same category.

Australian Fair is an initiative of community and church organisations.

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