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Senator to Live on the Dole for a Week

13 April 2012 at 1:36 pm
Staff Reporter
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.

Staff Reporter | 13 April 2012 at 1:36 pm


Senator to Live on the Dole for a Week
13 April 2012 at 1:36 pm

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert announces she will live on $17 a day for a week. Photo: supplied.

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.  

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  • Anonymous says:

    People living in public housing might have $17 a day to live on, people in private rental certainly do not. Perhaps as part of the exercise Senator Rachel Siewert should try to find an affordable private rental.

  • Anonymous says:

    For genuine jobseekers and people with employment barriers, I agree that the Newstart payment is abysmal. But why is Centrelink seemingly unable to weed out more rorters?

    In my one street alone, live apparently nonworking families/groups on benefits such as Jobstart – and in private rentals. Their house lots boast multiple modern cars, boats, trail and motor bikes and more. They appear to smoke and drink, have mobile phones and provide costly toys for their children. And all on $17 a day???

    However they manage to achive this amazing feat, why would hard working taxpayers want to give them each an extra 50 bucks a week to live the ‘life of Riley’?

  • Kevin Kelly says:

    Being made redundant is not fun especially if you live in an area where there are few jobs. As for taking “anything” try being a casual security guard and only getting a day here or there. You lose 70 cents in every dollar you earn and then see how “generous” the lousy Newstart is. As for being “free money” try having to spend thousands to get dental problems fixed. You pay the majority of it just to have a roof over your head then if you’re lucky a bit left for food. You’re forever in debt on it and if the slightest thing goes wrong you’re stuffed. Sure there are bludgers but there are those on other payments too. The worst thing is those useless “job agencies”. They line their own pockets and use taxpayers money to get bogus security and first aid certificates for their clients.

  • Anonymous says:

    A thorough investigation into the real worth of job agencies, with subsequent (and genuine) remedial action, is long overdue. Research into the qualitative, as well as quantitative, outcomes for clients needs to be integral to any critical review – e.g. relevance of job agency responses to individual client needs and aspirations (hopefully not of the airy-fairy, one-size-fits-all, top-heavy, patronising, overbearing variety) and job security, satisfaction and sustainability. Obtaining primary data from the ‘horse’s mouth’, a wide cross-section of them, is, of course, vital. To encourage honest, detailed feedback, participants need also to have the certainty that they will not be subjected to prejudice or penalty in any way and that making the effort to provide input will not be futile – indeed, participants might also be given opportunities to contribute to productive changes.

    Research such as this might allow people to have more well-informed, considered views of those receiving the Newstart allowance. Ms Siewart’s plan seems an effective way of highlighting the financial struggle, but unfortunately this alone might lack the ‘clout’ necessary to win an increase in the allowance. Further discussion might centre on what people think constitutes a ‘decent life’ – perhaps contributing to a more well-rounded debate.

  • Anonymous says:

    I don’t ask for holidays, or fancy clothes, or smokes (can’t stand them anyway) – those things are for people with the money to spend on them. The only time I drink is when I’ve made a windfall in my casual work and have the money to spare, which isn’t often.

    My total Newstart is $534/fortnight. I share a house in a shitty suburb (the kind you don’t go out alone after dark in) with 3 other people, and my rent eats up $220 of the $540. The other $320/fn is supposed, somehow, to pay for transportation (essential for jobs), decent food (also essential – it makes the difference between shining at a job interview and flunking it), decent (not fancy) clothes for job interviews, passable clothes for day-to-day, some form of entertainment (sorry, not all of us are couch potatoes mindlessly watching TV all day – sorry to break another stereotype of the unemployed) and to keep an emergency fund handy. I’m lucky enough not to have had any major health problems, or else I’d be in serious financial trouble – as it is, I’m keeping my head above water. But only just, and only by worrying about every penny spent.

    I’m not ungrateful for the dole – one look at countries like America shows me what the alternative is. But neither have I done anything to deserve the constant financial worries, having lost my last full-time job simply because I’m gay. Since then, my (ex)employer has been sabotaging every attempt I make to find work – it’s a small field I’m trained for, and he knows everyone. Sure, $50/week may not sound like much to many people – and it sounds like too much to others when multiplied by the number of people on Newstart – but it would make all the difference to people in my situation. And seriously, $27.5 million a week sounds like a big number, but it comes to less than 1/3 of one percent of the government’s current spending. In a country which can afford tax breaks for the James Packers of the world (as well as every corporation that comes begging for them), surely we can afford this?

  • Anonymous says:

    Well, it could be worse I suppose, like being unemployed in UK or USA. Economically further to the right than Australia. David Cameron is a self-serving corporate fascist psychopath.

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