A brand Newstart on $35 a day

Jenny Macklin is the current Australian Federal Government Families Minister and, according to her colleagues, is staunchly in favour of dole reform. For those who don’t know—‘dole’ is the term used in Australia (and the UK) for unemployment benefit paid to job-seekers. To qualify for a dole payment, the applicant must prove they are genuinely unemployed and seeking work, and the payment may also bring other benefits such as a health care card and food vouchers.

It’s highly commendable for a Federal Minister to be in favour of dole reform, as most don’t give a damn about voters on welfare. Indeed, the general public as a whole don’t particularly give a damn; with the popular view that those on the dole are simply ‘dole bludgers’, and should in fact get off their butt (and the dole) and just, well, get a job.

On 1 January this year, a law came into effect that moves single parents off unemployment benefit and on to Newstart when their youngest child turns eight. This change will save the Government $728 million over four years and will cost single parents up to $223 a fortnight. Despite Government claims that approximately 3,000 recipients would receive better payments, only 667 single parents have been given higher welfare benefits, including the disability support pension. The Newstart payment is $245 per week, or, as previously stated $35 per day.

In an inexplicable attempt to shoot herself in the foot, Jenny Macklin has announced to the world, that recipients of welfare should be able to live on this $35 per day. And, in a greater attempt to shoot off her other foot, has stated that she could live on $35 a day. As a Cabinet Minister, Jenny Macklin currently earns $6,321 per week—that’s $903 a day. Some disparity there I think.

Just out of interest AU$35 equates to:

US$ 36.63

Euro 27.67

GBP 22.50

Yen 3,187.50

NZ$ 43.93.

So let’s look at public housing. Public housing in the ACT (Canberra) has a long waiting list—almost two years in standard cases. To be eligible for public housing you must:

  • be 16 years or older
  • currently reside in the Territory, and have been a resident for at least six months
  • not have cash or personal assets greater than $40,000
  • not own any form of residential property
  • comply with a variety of income barriers according to your status, that is, whether single, single parent, family with one or more children etc.

Meeting this criteria and being prepared to wait the required length of time, you may be allocated public housing. Public housing rentals are 25 per cent of your total (gross) household income, or full market rental, whichever is less.

Now let’s look at a single parent with one pre-school or early primary aged child. They are unemployed and currently living in public housing, and as a single parent receive the maximum Single Parent Benefit (SPB) of $331.85 per week, out of which they pay 25 per cent or $82.96 in rent. This leaves them with $248.89 for other living expenses. There may of course be other benefits such as the aforementioned health care card and/or food vouchers.

Do you see where I’m going with this Jenny?

When the child turns eight years old they will be moved off the (SPB) and on to Newstart, thereby reducing their income—albeit only slightly. However, when they gain employment their payment will be reduced and their rent will increase according to their total income. Unless they have very accommodating family to help them with child care, it will be extremely difficult for them to pay their living expenses either way.

A single parent (or both parents) with more than one child does receive more benefits, but again their rental and other expenses increase accordingly.

Now let’s look at your circumstances Jenny. For someone earning over $900 a day, I would really like to see you move out of your lovely family home in Ivanhoe (where the average four bedroom home is priced around the $1 million mark, and rentals are upwards of $600 a week), and subsist on $35 a day. Of course you’d have to do it for at least three months to feel any real benefit.

Hell, I’d even fund you for the first week just to show my commitment. And I’m sure you’d have others lining up to fund the remainder.

Newstart? Not for some.

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