The Socialist Alliance released the statement below on February 23.
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The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) is running a campaign to raise the pittance that the unemployed are expected to live on — $243 a week on the Newstart Allowance — by $50 a week.
But an extra $50 won’t even bring the 600,000 Newstart recipients above the official poverty line.
Meanwhile the prime minister is about to get a $2192 a week pay rise and Parliamentary backbenchers an extra $846 a week added to their already fat salaries.
The job-destroying and union-bashing Qantas CEO Alan Joyce gave himself a pay rise of more than $40,000 a week last year and other corporate CEOs enjoyed similarly obscene pay rises.
They should try living on $35 a day like the unemployed.
As ACOSS points out, those struggling to live on Newstart include some of the most disadvantaged and marginalised in Australia:
• One in three are over 45,
• One in six have been assessed as only able to work part time due to a disability, including mental illness,
• One in 10 are from Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander backgrounds,
• One in 15 is a sole parent, needing affordable child care services and a job with family friendly hours,
• Two out of every five recipients have less than year 12 qualifications,
Labor and Liberal politicians have routinely stereotyped and slandered these people as “dole bludgers” and refused to automatically index the Newstart Allowance to inflation. As a result Newstart has now fallen to nearly $100 a week below the age pension.
The Socialist Alliance calls for the Newstart Allowance to be immediately raised to the level of the age pension, and then both benefits should be raised to the level of a living wage automatically indexed to real cost-of-living rises.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics calculated last year that the real cost-of-living rise for those on unemployment benefits and age pensions rose faster than the inflation rate.
Price rises in the basic necessities of life have a far bigger impact on low-income households. It is a crime that Labor and Liberal parties in government have conspired to force the jobless to try to survive on such a pittance, while further boosting the incomes of the rich in a country where the richest 20% own two-thirds of the wealth and the poorest 20% share just 1% of the wealth.
For example, it would cost about $60 million a week ($3.1 billion a year) to bring Newstart payments for the 600,000 unemployed who try to survive on it to the level of the age pension — an extra $100 a week.
If the government says it has no money for this, how can it afford to give more than twice as much, $7 billion, in superannuation tax breaks to the highest 12% of income earners?