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Greens: low welfare payments undermine work-readiness

Comments today by Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard defending unemployment payments that are well below the poverty line show she is out-of-touch with ordinary Australians, the Australian Greens say.

“Australia's unemployed are now officially the poorest in the developed world,” Greens Employment and Workplace Relations Spokesperson Senator Rachel Siewert said.

“It is wrong to think that keeping Newstart Allowance and the single parent's pension so horribly low is an incentive for workforce participation, when the end result is that the families of those who become unemployed can so quickly slip into poverty, homelessness and despair –  and it is doubly wrong during a time of rising unemployment and when Australia is also in the grip of a housing affordability crisis.

“The abysmally low rate of income support provided to unemployed Australians makes survival in our cities almost impossible, forcing many to move to the outskirts away from central labour markets.

“How can you hope to turn up to a job interview looking good and feeling confident and ready to perform when you're stressed out by the day-to-day struggle?

“Those already living on income support prior to the impact of the global financial crisis on the Australian job market now find it particularly difficult to find work, as they are competing with increasing numbers of the recently unemployed, who are more attractive to employers.

“The end result, with unemployment still expected to peak before a slow recovery, is a significant number of unemployed Australians who can expect to be living on Newstart Allowance for several years – a payment that the Deputy Prime Minister today admitted is designed to only provide short-term support.

“It’s time Minister Gillard engaged and began taking her Social Inclusion portfolio seriously," Senator Siewert concluded.

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