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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Newstart allowance too cruel

There are thousands of unemployed Australians between the ages of 50 and 64 who receive the Newstart allowance of $500 a fortnight. They know there is no chance of getting a job because they are too old, yet after hundreds of rejection letters from employers who refuse to hire older workers, they must keep going through the motions of applying for jobs they know they will never get, to qualify for the welfare payment. Too young for the age pension, they must tread water until they turn 65.

But Newstart doesn't only affect older workers, it's hurting single mothers and their children.  There are 80,000 single parents who have been moved from the sole parent pension to Newstart this year, when their youngest child turned 8, and now they must survive on $200 less a fortnight.

It's hard to understand how these people survive.  Emergency accommodation is now so hopelessly inadequate and overwhelmed by demand, welfare agencies have cases of mothers and children living and sleeping in their cars.

Latest figures show that our unemployment rate fell last month from 5.8 per cent to 5.6 per cent and we are supposed to be the envy of the world.  So why do we continue to hear horror stories about how hard it is to get a job, even for those with a degree.

Georgia Leaker

Georgia Leaker is 24, has two university degrees and wants to work in the media.  She too is on Newstart.  While at university she juggled three casual jobs, self-funded a university exchange to the US, worked for a Congressman and is now on a welfare payment of $565 a fortnight from Centrelink.

She pays $500 a fortnight for a "shoe box" (very cheap for Sydney) which leaves $65 for bills, food and public transport.  She earns $65 a fortnight for nannying which comes in under the threshold of minimum earnings allowed before penalties apply.

Out of hundreds of positions she applied for, she got four replies - two in retail and the other two offered salaries under the minimum wage. But she didn't get a chance to turn them down because all four jobs went to someone else.

Tim Costello

World Vision Australia CEO Tim Costello, Julian Burnside QC and social commentator Eva Cox called on the Labor government to increase newstart payments by $50 a week in the May 2013 budget, but it didn't happen.

Anthony Albanese

While Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese were running their leadership campaigns, they knew that Newstart was hurting single mothers and their children.  They could have fixed it before they were booted out of office, but they chose not to.  It's now up to Tony Abbott who we know is on a cost cutting crusade.

Anthony Albanese was raised by a single mother and sometimes speaks about it with pride.  So what happened Anthony?