Try living on $35 a day, Macklin told
First-hand experience ... Adam Bandt, acting Greens leader, said he would spend a week living on $35 a day next month. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
AUSTRALIA'S leading social service agency has called for the federal Families Minister, Jenny Macklin, to ''please do your job'', as the furore over Ms Macklin's performance grew.
Ms Macklin told reporters she could live on the Newstart allowance of $35 a day. She spoke on Tuesday, the day more than 80,000 single parents were moved from the parenting payment to the lower Newstart.
The Australian Council of Social Services chief executive, Cassandra Goldie, said the changes would leave vulnerable people - the majority of them women - between $60 and $110 a week worse off.
The acting Greens leader, Adam Bandt, whose Melbourne electorate has the highest proportion of people in public housing in the country, said he would spend a week living on $35 a day next month.
He called for Ms Macklin to back her claim that she could live on the Newstart allowance by joining him.
''There has been inquiry after inquiry, report after report saying this is an income that's below the poverty line,'' Mr Bandt said. ''Perhaps the minister needs some first-hand experience, maybe that will change her mind.''
Dr Goldie was cautious when asked about Mr Bandt's challenge to Ms Macklin.
''There's a lot of people out there challenging the minister to endeavour to live on $35 a day, but you can't replicate that experience if you are a senior member of government,'' she said. ''We're saying to the minister, please do your job. Please look at the evidence - there are three parliamentary committees that have all expressed concern about the adequacy of the Newstart allowance. We have the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the OECD and the Henry tax panel all saying this unemployment payment is too low.''
Dr Goldie called on the government to boost the rate of single unemployment benefit by $50 a week in its budget.
On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Ms Macklin said the minister would not comment further. She said questions about raising the dole were a matter for the Employment Minister, Bill Shorten. A spokesman for Mr Shorten, who is on leave, directed Fairfax Media to Mr Shorten's comments in November, when he said there was ''no doubt in my mind that $249, being the Newstart allowance, is incredibly low and very difficult to live on''. However, he said, the government would maintain the dole at its present rate ''for the time being''.
ACOSS says more than 90 per cent of single parents who have lost income are women.
Business groups, unions and community organisations have backed calls for the dole to be increased. In its August submission to a review of the adequacy of the dole, the Business Council of Australia said the value of the Newstart allowance had fallen behind the level of support given to other working-age people and ''no longer meets a reasonable community standard of adequacy''. It said the low rate of Newstart could be a barrier to people getting employment.
Poll: Should the Newstart allowance be increased?
- Yes, it would help struggling families and boost the economy.
- No, $35-a-day is enough to live on yet discourages idleness.
Total votes: 10419.
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Poll closed 4 Jan, 2013
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