Heads in the Sand
The recent airing of “Poor Kids” on the ABC’s 4Corners program has opened up many avenues for discussion, particularly around the implications on society of financial inequality.
The stories in the documentary, told by three British children living below the poverty line, give the viewer an insight into what life is really like for an increasing number of families in Britain as welfare payments are tightened and unemployment continues to rise. The gap between rich and poor is increasing day by day in these economically unstable times.
A glance over discussions following the program on social media sites shows us that for many 4Corners viewers, the harsh reality of life for these children was truly shocking. Why? Have we Australians buried our heads in the sand? Are we oblivious to the fact that an increasing number of children in Australia are growing up in similar circumstances?
The rate of poverty amongst children in Australia is 9.5 per cent, indicating that almost half a million Australian children are living in poverty. Many parents struggle to send their children to school with lunch each day. Twenty-one per cent of Australians — about 3.6 million people — live on less than $400 per week, which is $31 less than the full-time minimum wage and 700,000 children are growing up with neither parent working full-time.
4Corners guest, Professor Danny Dorling, discussed the idea in Britain of the trickle-down effect. He argued that it was obvious in Britain by the start of the 1990’s that the trickle-down effect wasn’t trickling down.
With tax reform high on the current political agenda we should hope that our politicians understand the failure of the trickle-down effect elsewhere and that they choose a path of reform not reliant on this ineffective theory.
As Tony Nicholson, Executive Director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence recently said “We can make Tax Reform something that benefits the vast majority of Australians by ensuring it promotes equity, opportunity and workforce participation. The reforms should aim to encourage a far more inclusive vision of growth than that offered by ”trickle down”.”
The failure of the trickle-down effect in Britain shows us that greed is preventing many children in Britain from having a quality life. We must not allow the greed of a few in Australia to widen the gap of disadvantage for Australian families and their children.