Churches rally in the Manning to fight for the poor

Reverend Helen Holliday, with parishioner Denise Ryan and Reverend Narelle Penman are in the process of penning a letter for Dr David Gillespie to highlight concerns of the Manning religious community, about the federal budget.
Reverend Helen Holliday, with parishioner Denise Ryan and Reverend Narelle Penman are in the process of penning a letter for Dr David Gillespie to highlight concerns of the Manning religious community, about the federal budget.

"I FIRMLY believe that the quality of a democracy is determined by how you treat the most disadvantaged, and this is appalling," said Reverend Narelle Penman of Taree's Uniting Church.

Rev Penman together with Rev Helen Holliday and a number of representatives from the different churches in the Manning have united to discuss the recently announced federal budget and the impacts the cuts will have on the local community.

The group is trying to arrange a meeting with member for Lyne Dr David Gillespie to discuss three key issues of significance for the Lyne electorate, of which they believe will inevitably lead to further hardship for our most vulnerable and disadvantaged citizens.

"We've all spoken to clients since the budget was handed down, who are really concerned about how they will survive," said Rev Holliday.

"There's already a marginalised group within the community and they are going to suffer even more."

The three key issues the group would like to discuss with Dr Gillespie include the $7 Medicare co-payment, the changes to education and HECS funding, and changes to pensions and the Newstart Allowance.

"We're in the process of drafting a letter to send to Dr Gillespie and hopefully from that we will be allowed a meeting with him to discuss our concerns further,'' Rev Holliday said.

"There's been a lot of talk about the different grants he has secured lately, but not much talk about the budget and its impact on his electorate, just lots of skirting around the issues."

"We deal with those affected, there are many families involved, lots of people who will not be able to afford to go to the doctor, not be able to put food on the table, the implications for this community are huge."

Rev Penman said she was aware that the Lyne electorate is one of the 17 lowest socio-economic communities in Australia and it has been said it may even be in the top three, meaning it will be signifcantly worse off.

She also wanted to highlight the fact that the 'median personal income' that the government has continually used to justify its cuts, is not a fair indication of income at all.

"The median personal income is taken from adult male full time wage, including millionaires," explained Rev Penman.

"We know that men earn more money than women, we also know that the majority of people in the country are employed either part-time or casually, so in fact the median personal income is significantly below that average.

"The median is actually about $577 a week nationally, and in Taree it's more like $390.

"The issue isn't about the fact that the budget needs to be balanced, it's that the government is putting out rhetoric that this budget is equitable and fair, and that's not the case. It's the most vulnerable who are going to be affected."

Rev Penman said the group believed the introduction of the Medicare $7 co-payment and the extra costs for pharmaceuticals was a "huge impost" particularly given that Fairfax recently revealed the 'data' which lead to the proposed changes was non-existent.

She said it's the "working poor" who do not have a health care card, who would be most affected by this 'tax'.

While the changes to HECS and education, particularly assistance for trades and apprenticeships was "unbelievable".

"Education benefits the whole of society, but it's as though the government believes those with higher education automatically earn a higher wage.

"That's not the case.

We've got highly skilled, educated clients who've completed five or six courses who can't even get a job."

She also said the changes to the pension and Newstart allowance are deplorable, especially given the church has been urging the government to increase Newstart for some time.

"Then to cut people off for six months I just don't know how they're going to live.

"We're creating a generation with a lack of hope and of poverty."

The churches already provide a range of support services for the disadvantaged within our community, from assisting with medical costs, to providing food, clothing and training, however they are working with limited resources themselves.

"The budget needs to be fairer, or crime rates and homelessness will surely rise," said Rev Penman.

"The social cost and human costs need to be considered, we can't just keep looking at the dollars and cents or it's going to end up costing the country a lot more."

The group hopes that Dr Gillespie will take on board their thoughts, as a body who deals directly with the most disadvantaged people within his electorate, and work on their behalf to express concerns to the government.

"We hope he'll take it back to parliament, we hope he'll look at the demongraphics of our community - his electorate - and see that it's not an equitable way of dealing with the situation."


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