Senator to Live on the Dole for a Week
13 April 2012 at 1:36 pm
Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert is trying to live on just $17 a day for a week, as part of the Greens’ campaign against the Federal Government's Newstart Allowance.
Siewert, who represents Western Australia in the Senate, says that she has taken on the challenge to demonstrate the challenges faced by people receiving the Newstart Allowance.
“The Newstart Allowance paid to unemployed Australians is simply too low,” Siewert said in a statement.
The Greens are calling for a $50 per week increase to the Newstart allowance, in line with the community sector’s recommended minimum increase, spearheaded by Australian Council of Social Services campaign, $35 a day is not enough!
Siewert says on $17 a day, which is what ACOSS says people on the dole have left for living expenses once rent has been factored in, she is already doing it tough.
"After taking all of these essential costs of rent and transport into account, I went from having $17.15 a day down to just $10.11 a day for everything else – food, toiletries and cosmetics, emergencies and so on.
ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie commended the actions of Siewert. "It's a great thing to see a federal politician so concerned about an issue as to take such a step," Goldie said. "If Senator Siewert didn't understand how tough it is to try and exist on so little, she sure will by the end of the week."
National director of Uniting Care, Lin Hatfield Dodds, said that Siewert’s efforts will help raise awareness of the issues facing unemployed people and their families who live well below the poverty line.
“It will be difficult enough coping with the cost of living on $17 a day for the next week once rent and utilities have been taken out, but observers, commentators and policy makers might consider the plight of people who have been surviving on unemployment benefits for over a year,” Hatfield Dodds said.
Hatfield Dodds said she encouraged every politician and every policy maker to consider living on $17 a day for a week to get a taste of life on Newstart.
“Inadequate support is forcing vulnerable people into deeper poverty entrenching their disadvantage and making it more difficult for them to get a job,” she said.
Cassandra Goldie said that ACOSS is also calling on the Federal Government to increase Newstart and other Allowances by $50 a week at the upcoming Budget.
"This is a modest increase that was recommended by the Henry review and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development," Goldie said.
Hatfield Dodds said that unemployment benefits have not been adequately indexed since 1980.
“UnitingCare Australia supports calls for a minimum of $50 a week increase in unemployment benefits to establish closer parity with the aged pension, and indexation in line with average weekly male earnings,” she said.
“This year’s Federal Budget must ensure that every Australian has enough income to live a decent life.”
However, the government has ruled out any increase in Newstart benefits in the 2012 budget, which will be revealed on May 8.