Protesters targeted the offices of federal minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin on January 11. They were angry about federal Labor’s cut to sole-parent incomes and refusal to raise the Newstart Allowance.
Sole parent Rose Ljubicic initiated the protest. She organised another protest on December 24 last year, sparked by receiving a government letter telling sole parents to cut up their pension cards on December 31.
Macklin told journalists on January 1 that she could live on the Newstart Allowance.
The protesters, including many sole parents, called on the government to restore the parenting payment to those forced off the payment when their youngest child turned eight.
Ljubicic told the crowd: “It’s not just that Newstart is so much lower than the parenting payment. Forcing all single parents to work once their youngest child reaches the age of eight can result in eight-year-old children being home alone after a parent goes to work or while waiting for a parent to return from work.
“It can mean that an eight-year-old is in school plus before and after school care for around 10 hours a day. That’s a very long time for a young child.
“If a sole parent family has to work every day, the child is unable to participate in extracurricular activities such as swimming, footy, dancing after school. This disengages the child from regular, inclusive community activities, especially as a lot of these activities happen straight after school. This increases the isolation of sole parent families.
“As the sole wage earner, parents are exhausted — being away from home up to 10 hours a day, then cooking, washing and other chores. The time which would normally be devoted to homework, a walk and a debrief with the child is denied.
“The parent not being home may result in older siblings becoming ‘parentified’ too young — a responsibility too great for children.”
Some speakers said that some women who had their sole parent pension cut by the government had already moved to sex work. The sex industry enabled women to take their children to and from school and take part in after school activities, the speakers said.
Sylvie Leber, a former worker with the Council of Single Mothers and their Children (CSMC), said that the CSMC had previously released a report on housing that showed many single mothers were taken advantage of by landlords and real estate agents when they could not pay rent.
“There are some myths that we need to dispel,” Sue Bolton, Socialist Alliance councillor of Moreland said. “One is that the government can’t afford to raise the Newstart Allowance. The government can afford it. It is a question of government priorities. The government would rather prioritise corporate welfare and pay private consultants than single parents.
“All benefits and pensions should be lifted to a liveable income.
“Another myth is that the cuts to the single parent pension have already happened so there is nothing you can do. That’s not true. Cuts can be un-cut. If we build a big enough campaign, we can force the government to reverse the cuts.”
Aboriginal activist Viv Moore said Macklin was responsible for the Stronger Futures legislation that had caused hardship for Aboriginal people.
Moore said “Macklin is just one person. There’s more of us than her. We just need to unite and stand up for our rights.”