By Paul Dobbyn
QUEENSLANDERS unable to put food on the table, unemployment, the plight of drought-affected farmers and homelessness are among some of the grim realities Church leaders want political parties to address at the state election.
The Liberal National Party Government has been criticised for its approach to youth justice, support for poker machine deregulation, and failing to effectively deal with the impact of mining on individuals, the community and the environment.
The Church’s educational leaders have a brighter story to tell with a “good working relationship” and “worthwhile achievements” reported since the Newman Government was elected.
Queensland St Vincent de Paul Society president John Forrest said the fact the same social problems remained from election to election, and even continued to worsen, “makes you wonder how solid politicians’ promises really are”.
“Every week, the volunteers in our family support centres and our members visiting people in their homes are made increasingly aware of those in the wider Queensland community doing it tough,” he said.
“We are receiving calls every day from people who just can’t put food on the table which is exacerbated by being unable to find employment.”
Brisbane archdiocese’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission executive officer Peter Arndt said the commission had been working with representatives of the Anglican Church, the Uniting Church and the Salvation Army on a number of important issues in Queensland.
“In particular, we have sought to highlight problems with approaches to youth justice, poker machine deregulation, and the impact of mining on individuals and communities,” he said. “Our commission has also worked with various environmental groups to express concerns about environmental policies.”
Queensland Catholic Education Commission executive director Mike Byrne said “the commission has enjoyed a good working relationship with the Government, especially Premier Campbell Newman, Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek and Treasurer Tim Nicholls”.
“Much has been achieved in Queensland education over the past three years of this government including the transition of Year 7 into secondary education and the provision of capital funding to allow this to occur,” Mr Byrne said.
“The Queensland Schools Planning Commission has been created to properly plan for future growth of student numbers and schools.
“There is also a commitment to the creation of a $1 billion Future Schools Fund for capital investment for new schools.”
Mr Forrest’s hope during the lead-up to the election was “that the marginalised and disadvantaged in our communities are not forgotten and that we will all give careful consideration to this issue when we cast our vote”.
“The rising costs of living, high unemployment and lack of affordable accommodation are stretching budgets for many to the point where often there is nothing left for the basic necessities,” he said. “Drought-affected farmers facing bank foreclosures on their properties are another major cause of concern.
“The society is looking for ways to advocate for them in the state and federal arenas.”
Mr Arndt said no matter which side of politics won the election, “government policy should look for opportunities to improve the lot of those who are unemployed, homeless people, people with a disability, older Queenslanders living on the pension and other vulnerable people”.