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We want this! We need this! We demand this!

At a massive rally in Melbourne recently over the changes to industrial relations legislation, the policy director of Jesuit Social Services, Fr Peter Norden made this speech:

I speak to you today as a representative of the community services sector and as a church leader.

Despite continued economic growth in recent years, community agencies have more people to help, not less! Has "the trickle down effect" worked?

No! We still see one million Australians living below the poverty line. 860,000 children growing up in jobless households.

ACOSS and ACC: These proposed changes to welfare and industrial relations are interconnected.

Single mothers, the disabled and the unemployed are being portrayed as bludgers. A clear element of: "Blame the victims".

The so called welfare reform aims to find a new pool of potential employees who are currently outside the labor market.

Through this means, the government will determine the price of labour by the needs of the economy, not by the needs of ordinary families to receive a living wage, a fair wage, a just wage.

Remember the days of "a fair day's work for a fair day's pay?" It was built on a recognition of workers as first of all human beings, not mere units of labour.

The Catholic Church articulated this teaching back in the 1890's. That's why we believe in the worker's right to join a union, to be protected by the solidarity of other workers from unchecked greed.

The proposed industrial changes will mean that 3.6 million workers will not be protected from unfair dismissal.

And the extension of individual contracts will result in cuts in take home pay and working conditions.

Minimum wages will be set by profitability, rather than being a reward for productivity.

Do we need more jobs for those who will become the working poor? Or do we need jobs that will lift Australians out of poverty?

This country used to be known as the working man's paradise. Now more than 2 million working Australians have no right to either paid holidays or sick leave.

We have seen a growing divide in this country between those who work for money, and those whose money works for them.

Do we want tax cuts for the rich?
Do we support wage subsidies for corporate Australia?

Employment should enable disadvantaged Australians to work their way out of poverty.

These industrial and welfare changes will result in the development of a permanent underclass of working poor.

What do we want? We want a living wage!
A wage that enables ordinary Australians to take a step forward, not backwards!

An industrial relations system that recognizes the value of human labour.

And a welfare system that leads to better access to education and training and independence and respect!

We want industrial and welfare systems that recognize and enhance the dignity of all people.

We want this! We need this! We demand this!

Peter Norden, S.J. is the Policy Director for Jesuit Social Services in Melbourne.

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