“[There’s] the stigma of having to leave groceries behind at the shops because my mental maths just isn’t quick enough to figure out what I can afford. I feel like I’m being told that it would be better if I just wasn’t here. It would be easier for Australia if I just disappeared.”
— Patrick, Newstart recipient living in Northern Tasmania
“Frankly I’m scared about what’s going to happen to me when my car rego and my insurances come because there’s no savings. Am I going to be forced to live in my car?”
— Deborah, Newstart recipient living in Launceston
These were just some of the heart-wrenching stories of survival we heard from Tasmanians who gave evidence at the Senate Community Affairs References Committee Inquiry into the Adequacy of Newstart and Related Payments last Friday.
Stuart Foster, General Manager of Community Services at The Salvation Army Tasmania, observed that “not being able to find a job should not subject you to abject poverty.” A point well made and an all too familiar reality for those who are experiencing the bleak reality of life on Newstart.
Our government is making a choice to punish jobseekers, though no fault of their own, by trapping them in a vicious cycle of poverty. We know when income support payments are inadequate it harms both individuals and entire communities. In the case of Tasmania, it is a harm that affects the entire state. This is because poverty prevents people from fully participating in the social, economic and cultural lives of their communities.
It is an expectation of government to govern for all members of society. A measure on which they are currently failing. Deborah, a Newstart recipient living in Launceston, summed it up best when she said, “[the government] need to stop treating us like we’re a blight on society. I feel like people like myself deserve to be treated with some respect… and to be able to keep some dignity.”
The evidence of need could not be clearer. It is now up to the Federal Government to commit to alleviating the burden of punitively low income support payments.
Read the media coverage:
- ‘Please listen to us’: the Newstart recipients trying to convince Scott Morrison he’s wrong, Guardian Australia, 11 November 2019
- Stories of despair in the face of Newstart and Centrelink in Tasmania, The Examiner, 8 November 2019
- Senate committee told Tasmanians are barely surviving on Newstart, The Examiner, 8 November 2019