The figures, released through the Senate estimates process, bolster the case mounted by Labor MPs and the welfare sector to increase the dole on the grounds it is not just a short-term support system.
As of August 31, the average time a recipient spent on Newstart was 104.2 weeks. This did not take into account breaks for short-term jobs or while on other welfare payments.
Labor MPs yesterday took a different line from Families Minister Jenny Macklin, who caused a furore when she claimed on Tuesday that she could survive on the dole.
Ms Macklin angered welfare groups by claiming she could live on Newstart payments of $246 a week – or about $35 a day – while defending cuts to single parents’ benefits.
The Treasurer admitted it would be tough to survive on $35 a day, which was why the government offered low-income families a range of “generous” extra payments.
“It’s tough to get by on the dole,” Mr Swan said. “But we have to understand that the dole is a temporary payment. The government’s No 1 objective from day one is to support employment and to create new jobs.”
Health Minister Tanya Plibersek would not say if she could get by on $35 a day but conceded it would be hard to live on the dole.
“I don’t think anyone thinks it’s easy to live on Newstart,” she said.
The government has come under fire, even from some Labor backbenchers, for moving single parents on to Newstart when their youngest child turns eight, under legislation enacted on Tuesday.
The changes will save the government $728 million over four years and will cost single parents up to $223 a fortnight.
The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union joined in the call for an increase in the dole, arguing that it keeps the jobless in poverty and makes it difficult for them to find work.
“On 35 bucks a day you can barely feed and clothe yourself, let alone pay rent or a mortgage, catch public transport or drive a car to a job interview,” national secretary Paul Bastian said.
Acting Greens leader Adam Bandt has challenged Ms Macklin to join him in living off the dole for a week, prompting Housing Minister Brendan O’Connor to accuse the MP of patronising those on the payments.
Janelle Saffin, Labor MP for Page, in northern NSW, said she would increase the pressure for a rise in the Newstart allowance.Source: The Australian
- Live off Newstart, Greens tell Macklin (bigpondnews.com)
- Labor MPs agree dole living tough (bigpondnews.com)
- Labor MPs dodge Macklin’s dole claims (news.com.au)
- Australia: Jenny Macklin sorry for ‘insensitive’ dole claim (craighill.net)