Ruthless budget “repair”: Unsustainable austerity will cost poor people their lives
The government knows people on Centrelink payments die by suicide at extraordinary rates yet they are pushing us to bear the cost of budget repair.
The Albanese government’s first federal budget has dealt a predictable but nonetheless devastating blow to welfare recipients and people in poverty. The government has delivered on its promise to continue wasting billions on harmful (un)employment services while refusing to provide a single extra dollar to welfare recipients.
[Content warning: suicide, self-harm.]
Included below: reactions from welfare recipients; key statistics; crisis line contact information.
There is no such thing as a wellbeing budget that leaves people in poverty. Making sure everyone has enough to live should be the government’s highest and most urgent priority. Millions of people on poverty payments – and those who need help but can’t even get it – have been left behind by Albanese and Chalmers. People on unemployment payments for longer than 4 years are twice as likely to die by suicide – the average time on payments is now 6 years.
The choices in this budget will cause the most harm to people in poverty who already face the greatest intersectional disadvantage: First Nations people, trans people and disabled people.
Quotes attributable to Antipoverty Centre spokesperson and DSP recipient Kristin O’Connell
Albanese has given us no help and no hope. This budget is a death trap.
The forecast is higher electricity bills, low wage growth and more unemployment. It means more people feeling suicide and self-harm are their only option.
Poor people are not the cause of inflation but we are the ones being punished for it.
This budget is nothing but an exercise in blatant social murder. The ghouls running this country have chosen to get their precious budget savings at the cost of lives they deem disposable.
People on the lowest incomes cannot take any more. We cannot sustain the brutal welfare policies inflicted on us.
We’re not coping with the price increases we’ve already seen, let alone more. Electricity and gas going up means more people having their power cut off, more people in debt they can’t repay and more people homeless.
We don’t need more demeaning food banks, voucher programs, services, mental health awareness. We need money. We need it urgently. Politicians know this.
Every poverty-related death is a political choice.
Media contact: 0413 261 362 / media at antipovertycentre.org
Budget reactions from people in poverty
Despite the unemployment rate of 3.5% being 33% lower than before the pandemic hit – the it’s been lowest since 1974 – there are 20,000 more people on JobSeeker today than in February 2020, with 772,000 people relying on the payment in September.
People on unemployment payments for longer than four years are twice as likely to die by suicide. The average time on payments is now 6 years and 158,000 people on JobSeeker have relied on a Centrelink payment for more than 10 years.
One in 5 people on an unemployment payment is employed. 359,000 people on the JobSeeker payment (43% of total recipients) have partial capacity to work with a recorded medical condition or disability. 240,000 people on JobSeeker – or nearly 1 in 3 – are over 55 facing age discrimination. More than 100,000 are primary carers. (Source: https://data.gov.au/dataset/ds-dga-cff2ae8a-55e4-47db-a66d-e177fe0ac6a0/details)
An August 2019 Essential poll found 84% believed that no one in Australia should go without essentials like food, healthcare and power. Only 30% believed it would be better to spend money on services instead of increasing unemployment payments. A May 2020 Essential poll found 57% support for JobSeeker being at least as high as the age pension, including 51% of Coalition voters. An Ipsos poll released in August 2021 found 77% of people supported a liveable income guarantee above the poverty line. A November 2021 Ipsos poll found 65–74% support for JobSeeker payments to be above the poverty line in Liberal-held marginal electorates. The electorates polled were Boothby, Swan, Longman, Blair and Dobell. Between 49% and 60% of voters in the five seats said they would consider changing their vote to a party that would lift the rate above $69 a day.
Crisis support and counselling services
If you need support you can seek guidance, counselling or crisis help from the below organisations or talk to someone you trust.
Suicide Call Back Service – general: 1300 659 467
SANE Australia – general: 1800 187 263
13YARN – for First Nations people: 13 92 76
National Counselling and Referral Service – for disabled people: 1800 421 468
Headspace – for young people: 1800 650 890
QLife – fo LGBTQIA+ people: 1800 184 527
Full Stop – for people who have experienced sexual harassment and assault: 1800 385 578
Embrace Mental Health – multilingual service: embracementalhealth.org.au
MensLine – for men: 1300 789 978
Brother to Brother – for First Nations men: 1800 435 799
About the Antipoverty Centre
The Antipoverty Centre was established in May 2021 by people living on Centrelink payments to counter problems with academics, think tanks and others in the political class making harmful decisions on behalf of people they purport to represent.
We have deep expertise in poverty, disadvantage and unemployment, because we live it. Our goal is to help ensure the voices and rights of people living in poverty are at the centre of social policy development and discourse. We believe there should be no decision made about us without us.
The Antipoverty Centre is not aligned with any political party and does not accept funding that places political constraints on our work.