Jobless need a living wage not just a $50 rise to the dole

Jobless need a living wage not just a $50 rise to the dole

'The Socialist Alliance calls for the Newstart Allowance to be immediately raised to the level of the aged 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 Council of Social Service (ACOSS) is running a campaign to raise by $50 a week the pittance that the unemployed are expected to live on through the $243/week Newstart Allowance.

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 per week to their already fat salaries. The job-destroying and union-bashing Qantas CEO Alan Joyce gave himself a more that $40,000 a week pay rise last year and other corporate CEO's 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:

  • 1 in 3 are over 45 years of age
  • 1 in 6 have been assessed as only able to work part time due to a disability, including mental illness
  • 1 in 10 are from Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander backgrounds
  • 1 in 15 is a sole parent, needing affordable child care services and a job with family friendly hours
  • 2 out of every 5 recipients has 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 the Newstart Allowance has now fallen to nearly $100 a week below the aged pension.

The Socialist Alliance calls for the Newstart Allowance to be immediately raised to the level of the aged 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 by more than the inflation rate.

Price rises in the basic necessities of life have a far greater impact on low-income households and it is a crime that both Labor and Liberal parties in government have conspired to force the jobless to try and 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 (see graph).

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). If the government says it has no money for this how come it can afford to give more than twice as much, $7 billion, in superannuation tax breaks to the highest 12% of income earners?

With more and more job cuts being announced everyday, it is urgent for trade unions and other community groups to demand a living wage for people thrown out of work.

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