The Julia Gillard surfing team, that wretched group that dines large on the taxpayer’s nipple, has it too good. This lot earns a whopping $300 a week (with rent assistance) enabling them to do all sorts of glamorous things like have caviar food fights in mumsie’s champagne cellar.
Or maybe not. After all, this is a world where rent can equal as much of 50 to 70% of that payment before they feed themselves.
Research by the National Welfare Rights Network found that if a person’s income was reduced to $243 a week (Newstart without rent assistance) “more than 60 per cent would stop buying fresh food and almost half would not visit a doctor when sick.” By contrast an aged pensioner with rent assistance earns $386 per week – 28% more than someone on Newstart.
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Could you survive on $150 a week? Because that’s effectively what we’re asking our unemployed to do every single week.
A few weeks ago I spent a week living on the dole for a feature story. I had just $150 to spend on groceries, public transport, electricity bills, mobile phone, medications, photocopying of my resume and an outfit to wear to job interviews.
I had no car, no internet, no computer, no food from my pantry, no private health insurance, and no Foxtel. I had always thought the dole payment was rather generous. After all, how do all those surfies survive on it? But the current level of Newstart allowance is so grossly inadequate I was shocked.
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It’s easy to blame people for being outside the labour market or on its low-paid fringes. It’s easy when you’re passing judgment from a comfortable vantage point, well above the fray.
The members of my organisation, the St Vincent de Paul Society, however, are painfully close to the reality of poverty in a prosperous nation.
Every day, we see how hard it is to survive on social security payments. The people who have been left out of the economic prosperity that has been generated in this lucky country are waging a daily battle for survival. It’s a battle that is being waged from below the poverty line.
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There was a chilling line in a Daily Telegraph piece on girl gangs back in 2008. Reporter Lauren Williams had a 2.30am chat with a Glebe teen called “Carson” in the article.
“Carson” explained why she and her friends stole.
“If the government gave us more money then we wouldn’t have to rob people,” she said, apparently satisfied she had delivered an impregnable justification for purse snatching, shop lifting and mugging.
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Your task is simple. Here is $115.50. It must last one week. You have no savings, no assets, but thankfully you’ve already paid your rent. That’s about $16 a day to cover food, bills, transport, entertainment and hygiene products.
We hope you like never going out, watching television and that none of your loved ones ever require a birthday present. Hopefully you’re not someone who requires much medication or needs to go the Doctor. We do hope you like basic carbohydrates or can cope with the embarrassment of having to ask a charity for a food parcel.
Welcome to the world of Australia’s depressed, stigmatised and disempowered Newstart recipients.
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“GET a job!” It was the response to a protester from Prime Minister Paul Keating during his ill-fated 1996 election campaign that epitomised the “dole bludger” tag.
The nation’s unemployment rate had spiked during his previous term and many school leavers were seen as aimless, finding it easier to rely on government welfare than to look for paid work.
More than a decade on, the jobless figures have done an about-turn. In some areas there are more jobs than willing workers. But it seems the legendary dole bludger is alive and well.
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There’s no way taxpayers should be supporting fit young people to lounge around for years on the dole, smoking joints and listening to Pink Floyd.
And no one wants their hard-earned being spent on a wannabe writer who houseshares with other ‘creatives’ living the dream while we eke out a meagre office-bound existence, soothed only by Friday night drinks and dreams of what might have been.
And we’ll be damned if we pay tax after levy after carbon price while someone who has ‘self esteem’ issues can’t get out of bed before lunch.
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