Churches Supporting Jobless Australians

12 October 2005

The President of the Uniting Church, the Reverend Dr. Dean Drayton today responded to claims by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry that the Churches were ignoring jobless Australians.

"The Uniting Church has been one of the most outspoken advocates of the poor and the unemployed in Australia and we believe that stable employment is one of the best ways to alleviate poverty and disadvantage.

"We have advocated to government for many years about the need to create more jobs, but not at any cost. In 1994, in a public statement about employment we said that 'the goal is paid employment for all who want it, at adequate wages to ensure that all employees can afford to meet the human needs of themselves and their families, and with some reward for competence'.

"The Government has often spoken about the importance of level playing fields but for the vulnerable in our society this new system will not be a level playing field. We have always called for policies which promote equity in employment and dignity in unemployment.

"The Government is setting up employers and employees for workplace arm wrestles. While that may work for some people, for those whose arm is not so strong, for low paid and vulnerable workers, it will always be a one-sided arm wrestle, and that's not right," Rev. Drayton said.

"Our commitment as a church to unemployed Australians is second to none and I am puzzled that Mr Hendy, of all people, needs to be reminded of it.

"On the ground, the UnitingCare network provides community services to over one million Australians each year - the bulk of these services are targeted at the most disadvantaged, including the unemployed.

"Together with Anglican and Catholic Churches and the Salvation Army, we provide around 20 per cent of the Government's Job Network Services to unemployed Australians. Last year, across 34 sites we provided assistance to 26,000 unemployed Australians in this way."

"Christians are called to challenge, in word and deed, systems and structures that breed hate, greed, oppression, poverty, injustice and fear. Anything less than this is a watered down expression of our faith.

"What ACCI and the Government must remember is that the purpose of a strong economy is to help Australians access secure and equitable standards of living. The labour market is not like any other market. People are not commodities in the service of greater profits and should not be left open to exploitation. There is more to being human that simply being a piece in the economic jigsaw puzzle."