According to this article on the ABC, our Federal Families minister, Jenny Macklin reckons she could live on the dole.
The dole is currently about $35 per day.
Now, normally when someone in a position of privilege or power says “oh, I could live on the dole”, they tend to mean “I could certainly live on the dole for about a fortnight; let me just stock up the cupboards first”. Or they mean “sure, I could live on the dole – I’ll just rely on my partner’s income”. Or else they mean “I’ll visit friends and family a lot”. Or they mean “oh, I’ll just restrict the amount of money we’re using for a bit; I don’t want to have to go inside a Centrelink office”.
So I have a “put your money where your mouth is” challenge for Ms Macklin. Sustain your family for six months minimum on an income no more than the full dole payment for a pair of partnered adults (rent assistance and pharmaceutical allowance permissible as additions if you’d qualify for them, but nothing else). Comply with all the requirements Centrelink has for receiving the dole while you’re at it – so both yourself and your partner have to be looking for work, both yourself and your partner need to make regular visits to a Job Network provider and undertake the training and jobsearch requirements they insist on, both yourself and your partner have to make regular income reports to Centrelink (I’ll be nice – you don’t have to do these using the fortnightly forms handed in at the nearest Centrelink office; you can do the online submissions or phone submissions instead).
Don’t use your family, your friends, your political colleagues, your media contacts, your political contacts or your tertiary or professional networks as a source of support, employment opportunities, or any form of assistance. You’re surviving on Newstart – just Newstart.
Ms Macklin should feel free to ask the various public servants in the Department of Human Services what the actual requirements for someone on Newstart are at present, because complying with those requirements are part of the costs of getting the dole – you’re expected to pay in humiliation and frustration for the payment you’ll receive. Interviews, fortnightly inquisitions to ensure you’re not defrauding the poor innocent taxpayer, the full claim process wherein you have to supply details for Centrelink regarding all of your finances, all of your assets, and all of your possible sources of support. Oh, and the joys of navigating the Centrelink phone system, which at times quite frankly qualifies as one of the levels of hell all on its own.
Update: The Greens have challenged Ms Macklin to live on the dole for a week. See above for why I feel that wouldn’t be a true test – the thing that hurts about living on Newstart isn’t doing it for a short time period, it’s doing it for months and months, week after week after week of scraping and scrimping and trying to pinch the pennies hard enough that they squeak.