poverty

Here’s a novel idea: Instead of politicians voting themselves another pay rise, how about we give them a pay cut? A real pay cut. We ask them to do what a couple of million Australians are expected to do, week in and week out.

The Newstart Allowance received by Australia’s jobless (if they are lucky enough to get it) stands at $273 a week. The last time it was raised, relative to the Consumer Price Index, was in 1994. Last year, the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research calculated the poverty line for a single adult was at around $510 a week (including housing costs). That corresponds to a present figure of about $521. This means Newstart is now $248 a week below that miserably low poverty line.

There is a common trend when arguing against a Universal Basic Income (UBI) to use critiques that could apply to any policy. The logical thing to do, if we were to take this line of reasoning at face value, would be to stand for nothing.

Before looking into these criticisms, we should begin by addressing exactly what is a UBI. A UBI is an unconditional, liveable wage for every citizen. If it does not meet the three metrics of 1) unconditionality; 2) liveability; and 3) for every citizen; then it is not a UBI.

Currently more than 800,000 people are without paid work and are struggling to meet basic needs such as housing and food. There are countless stories of those living on welfare having to choose between paying a bill or eating a meal. Anyone who has been unemployed knows it costs money to seek employment, from printing your resumes to the cost of travel to interviews, appropriate clothing or a haircut. It is nearly impossible to look for paid work if you are homeless and hungry.

The federal Coalition government's so-called "tax reform" package is, overall, a major escalation of the capitalist class war by the rich against the poor and working people.

The initial tranche of income tax measures will reduce tax by a very modest amount for low-income taxpayers, but the long-term effect of the package is to massively reduce tax on the wealthy and attack the elements of a progressive taxation system established in this country over many years.

The grassroots campaign to increase welfare payments for the unemployed received a boost on June 12 from the national body that represents councils across Australia.

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) overwhelmingly voted in support of a motion calling on the federal government to increase the Newstart Allowance, the Centrelink payment for unemployed people.

Fremantle City Council agreed on May 23 to support a rise in the federal government’s Newstart Allowance paid to unemployed jobseekers, becoming the first local government in Western Australia to adopt this position.

Acting on a motion proposed by Councillor Sam Wainwright, council took this decision following the presentation of a petition of residents organised by Anti-Poverty Network Perth (APN). The petition called for Newstart to be raised to a level sufficient to allow recipients to live in dignity.

Below are overviews of six new books for an ecosocialist bookshelf, compiled by Climate and Capitalism editor Ian Angus. They look at the Science for the People movement, health care under capitalism, the criminalising of poverty, Yemen in crisis, the origins of everything, and communism and democracy.

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The fact that Barnaby Joyce has been forced to step down from the leadership of the Nationals is a good thing. Not so good was Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's reframing of the former deputy PM's wrongdoings in terms of a paternalistic, sexual moralism.

Rather than address Joyce’s abuse of parliamentary privilege to ensure his partner maintained her well-paid media advisor job and questions over Joyce’s expenditure claims for travel and accommodation, Turnbull decided to play the moral card.

Frieda Afary is a US-based Iranian socialist and a member of the recently formed Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists. She spoke to Green Left Radio’s January 26 show on Melbourne community radio station 3CR, on the significance of the recent protests in Iran. Her comments are abridged below and edited for clarity.

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