Federal Greens want new commission to address poverty

The Greens are pushing for an independent anti-poverty commission as they echo calls from the social services sector to increase welfare payments. 

Greens senator Janet Rice said the government's economic inclusion advisory committee did not go far enough.

"What we as Greens believe is setting up a truly independent commission, rather than a committee that the government seems able to just ignore," she told parliament on Thursday.

Senator Rice said a one-off increase to some welfare payments in the last budget wasn't enough and that there needed to be an independent body that had people with lived experience of poverty to come up with effective policy.

Labor senator Marielle Smith said while poverty and financial hardship were challenges facing too many Australians, the proposed body would duplicate the independent economic advisory committee.

"What doesn't help the picture of poverty in Australia is the idea that the challenges before us can be fixed with quick fixes or simple ideas, committees and commissions," she said.

"We need complex policy responses."

Senator Smith said measures to address poverty could not be inflationary as "the people who suffer most from a high inflationary environment are those with little to spend ... (and) those living in poverty".

Liberal senator Slade Brockman said the government needed to address cost of living pressures on families and tackle inflation to stop Australians from going backwards as mortgages, power prices and grocery bills go up.

Senator Brockman said inflation was making it harder for people to draw themselves out of poverty, as they attempt to improve their lives through education, getting a job or starting a small business.

"Inflation is the destroyer of standard of living," he said.

Greens senator Penny Allman-Payne said the large increases to welfare payments during the pandemic had an immense impact on people's lives.

"People who couldn't afford to put food on the table suddenly could," she said.

The senator's private bill won't progress in the upper house without government and opposition approval.

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