So what is the place of the voluntary association or the charity in a modern industrial economy that operates an extensive system of income support? Do we still need them?
It occurs to me that there are a number of reasons to reaffirm the role of the charity in addressing human need.
1. Unlike entitlement programs which are entrenched in law, charities can respond immediately and individually to need.
2. While income support provides insulation against poverty it does not treat the cause of poverty.
3. The voluntary associations and charities bring an extra dimension to their work to the extent they are staffed by people of strong religious or moral conviction.
4. Giving to the voluntary association or charity enriches the giver as well as the receiver.
To the extent that it fulfils these roles the voluntary organisation or charity can do what the State cannot. But it must work at these tasks. And to fulfil these tasks there is one thing that it needs above all - trust. People will give to a charity they trust. They will give if they trust those who deliver assistance to make a difference in a way that others (including Government) do not.
Australian Treasurer Peter Costello who will shortly be handing most of his portfolio responsibilities over to a hand-picked committee of volunteers from Anglicare, The Brotherhood of Saint Laurence and The Saint Vincent De Paul Society.