Politicians pushing down the poor

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The Prime Minister cutting single parent benefits on the same day as her famous feminist inspired speech is a hypocritical disgrace, says Kel Miels.

by Kelly Miels

This week marks the 10th anniversary of Anti-poverty week, where Australian’s are encouraged to take part in or organise various activities to emphasize and combat issues of poverty both here and overseas.

An alarming report from the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) has data revealing that one in six Australian children are living below the poverty line and kids from single parent families are the most at risk. It has been estimated that 17.3% of ALL Aussie children are now living below the poverty line. That is a whopping 5.3% increase since 2005.

Like many people across Australia and the globe, I watched and cheered on in elation when our Prime Minister Julia Gillard made the speech of her career and put the creepy, chauvinistic, Tony Abbott back into his sexist little box.

It was such an empowering speech that resonated with many people, particularly women, and left a lot of us feeling immensely proud and it felt as though feminism and equality was finally standing up and making its voice heard in our fair country that day — or so it seemed.

Shortly before Gillard’s historical speech, her Government pushed through legislation ensuring that from January 2013, all single parents currently receiving Parenting Payments will be forced on to Newstart allowance once their youngest child turns eight. Two inquiries had recommended that this bill be delayed and even the Human Rights committee recommended that the Government defer its plan until a senate inquiry could deliver its findings, but the Gillard Government pushed it through anyway with no opposition from the Coalition. The Government predicts, because of this bill, they will save approximately $728 million over the next four years, which in turn will help get the budget back into surplus.

When this bill takes effect in January of next year, it is going to affect 100,000 of our country’s most vulnerable people, and these people will join the rapidly increasing statistics as they too fall below the poverty line. Newstart payments are said to be $130 to $140 below the poverty line and these families’ can expect a massive financial loss of up to $223 a fortnight. A staggering 90% of the 100,000 people targeted are single women with children. This is a vicious stab in the back to Australian women who are already struggling to keep up with the forever increasing cost of living and the pressure of raising kids on their own.

For this to happen, and on the same day as such a feminist inspired speech by our leader, is both hypocritical and a disgrace to the Gillard Government and to all politicians who were in favour of this bill. Pushing even more Australian’s to the depths of poverty is not going to get this already vulnerable group of people into work when there aren’t even enough jobs to go around as it is. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has reported that the unemployment rate in this country has risen by 0.3 of a percent as of September 2012 which equates to a rate of 38,800 people unemployed, so how are this newly deprived group of 100,000 people expected to find work?

Then there is the question of how the Government could let this happen when they know that people affected by this budget cut- back driven bill can’t survive when unemployment payments have not kept pace with the increased cost of living. It has been said numerous times that we are a “lucky country” and our Government boasts of our stable and booming economy. Unfortunately, it seems that in order to keep it that way, we will incur and cost — even if the cost is a violation of our human rights.

This bill will see that our nation’s poorest  people dive deeper into the realms of poverty as they are forced to struggle to find work, childcare, pay for food, housing and clothe, not only themselves, but also their children on payments that are below the poverty line. Homelessness will surely increase and, without enough money, children will end up hungry and not properly cared for. No one can really predict the extent of how a generation of kids will fare because of this rushed decision.

I wonder how our politicians can have a clear conscience when they aim to hinder the citizens who they are supposed work for — the same citizens who have elected them into their positions in the first place? How can they sleep soundly at night when Australia’s children are going to suffer, yet at the same time they happily accept two substantial pay rises in this year alone, only three months apart from each other? How can Gillard rest comfortably when the people of the country she leads struggle to make ends meet when her two pay increases has seen her better off by $129,064 than this time last year? And, we didn’t see Mr Abbott carry on in the ridiculous and childish manner we have come to expect from him when he was offered his extra pay increase off $1,766 a week.

In a time of an uncertain future, this could be one of the final blows to what we have left of our socio-economic stability. With a government keeping its mind set on short-term financial goals, what hope do we really have any more, when the ones we elect to care for the future of our children seem intent on running our country like a business.

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