Today the Government gagged the Senate and allowed no time to even debate the first so-called real permanent increase in the Jobseeker Payment since 1994.
After more than a decade campaigning and tireless advocacy, we should be celebrating this moment but there hasn’t been any celebrating and there won’t be.
Today there is only distress and anger. I share that distress and anger. I stood in here a year ago and thanked the Government for doubling the Jobseeker payment when the pandemic hit saying I had tears in my eyes when I heard.
Well I had tears in my eyes when I heard about this pathetic increase – tears of distress, anger and despair.
I’m angry because this pitiful increase to Jobseeker Payment amounts to $3.57 a day.
I’m angry because the Government is choosing to entrench poverty.
I’m angry because in a wealthy country like Australia, no one should be skipping meals and going hungry.
Today I am thinking of the people who have been ignored, dismissed and demonised by this Government and who are now condemned to poverty.
This is not over. We will not stop campaigning with the community until we get an increase that is above the poverty line.
The senate was denied the opportunity to debate this bill and to hear the voices of people who will be impacted by this cruel bill. I would like to share some of these people’s experiences today to demonstrate what life will be like for people when they are forced further below the poverty line.
One woman said: “I am currently living in an isolated, rural area, but after many years of abuse, I have finally found peace here. My ex physically attacked me, leaving me every day in pain. I have anxiety and panic attacks when I leave the property. And I struggle with day to day life. While I am currently applying to get onto the Disability Support Pension, I am still struggling to live fortnight to fortnight on the current rate. The current rate is liveable. But cutting it back to the poverty rate is reprehensible.”
A single parent from the Northern Territory said: “Since the latest round of cuts I have had to default if paying my electricity bill- it is currently in danger of being cut off and incurring over $100 to put it back on. I won’t be able to drive my car soon as I can’t afford registration which I pay monthly.
I have given up filling one of my prescription medications as I cannot afford it. I have been unable to pursue study that I was nearly finished which would have increased by employability. I cannot afford to renew an important qualification. I have been missing six meals per week, every week in order to pay my rent Important rehabilitation is out of my reach.”
Another person said: “With the Covid 19 supplement I have been able to pay my bills, get my life preserving medication, and buy fresh fruit and vegetables. Life on $44 a day will mean I have to go back to eating packets of pasta and sauce, two minute noodles, and rice with frozen vegetables. Going back to $44 a day will mean I have to miss meals to catch public transport to go to my mandated in person meetings. Miss meals to pay for my phone that I use to look for work.”
One young person who struggles with poor health told us: “There have been several periods where I have relied on food banks and charities to afford basic necessities. I rely on the kindness of others to help me get to appointments or go get groceries when my health is bad. This pitifully low rate does not allow me to live with independence and dignity.”
There was this heartbreaking plea: “Don’t do this. You’ll be sentencing me to homelessness and starvation. Its heartless.”