In the lead up to the federal budget, the St Vincent de Paul Society has issued a last-minute plea to the government not to abandon people to poverty.
Chief Executive, Dr John Falzon, said:
“Newstart is so low that unless it is urgently increased we are looking down the barrel of increased exclusion and poverty in prosperous Australia. An immediate $50 a week increase and changing the method of indexation is the least the government can do. The payment has not seen an increase in real terms since 1994. We urge the government to bite the bullet on this historic injustice.
“We understand the fiscal constraints that the Government is operating within but we reject the unprincipled notion that it is the most disadvantaged members of the community who should suffer the brunt of this burden.
“By keeping the unemployment benefit purposely low, successive governments are deliberately humiliating people rather than improving their chances of employment.
“And this year around 72,000 sole parents, mainly women, were forced from the parenting payment onto the lower Newstart payment. The government claims that this is the way to put single mothers on a path to employment. What it has actually done is to make their lives harder and to place some on the path to despair, with some sadly resorting to petty crime as a means of feeding their children.”
National President, Anthony Thornton, cited the recent report by AAP’s Lisa Martin describing increases in shoplifting and petrol theft offences among women in Tasmania, Queensland and the ACT this year, which coincides with the cut to payments for sole parents. He said:
“Every day our 40,000 members across Australia witness the battle for survival that is being waged in the homes of families who are outside the labour market or on its insecure fringes. What kind of message are we as a nation sending them when we make their lives harder and then blame them for their poverty?”