Discover more from Antipoverty Centre media hub
Welfare recipients deserve a better future too, but Albanese offers us no hope
Antipoverty activists surviving on welfare call on the new prime minister to honour his mother’s memory by increasing Centrelink payments
The Antipoverty Centre welcomes the demise of the heartless, poor-hating Coalition. Good riddance to Scott Morrison, Anne Ruston, Michaelia Cash, Stuart Robert and all the other ghouls who had a hand in punishing people for their poverty over the past 9 years.
But welfare recipients woke up to a new government with no hope of the “better future” Anthony Albanese has made the cornerstone of his campaign.
In the wake of the election the Antipoverty Centre has seen an outpouring of despair from people living in poverty, with countless welfare recipients beseeching the incoming government to reject austerity and ensure we have enough money to afford the basics.
Included below: comments from Antipoverty Centre and Abolish Work for the Dole campaign representatives, reactions from people on welfare, background statistics, crisis support contact information.
Our current social security system is a poverty machine, with abhorrently low payments, restrictive eligibility and harsh activity requirements creating and perpetuating poverty at a rate unprecedented in the post-WWII era.
The Antipoverty Centre will continue to stridently criticise Labor’s policy on forcing welfare recipients to survive on starvation payments for as long as they continue hold the same positions as the Coalition they defeated.
We reject the breathless proclamation that Albanese saying “no one left behind because we should always look after the disadvantaged and the vulnerable” is “the most important line in his victory speech”.
This morning, in his first address to media as prime minister, Albanese said he believes “the ‘how’ is just as important as the ‘what’” when it comes to government, and we agree. His words ring hollow while he leads a government committed to not raising the JobSeeker payment and that refuses to invest in the dramatic expansion of public housing that is so desperately needed. That is why he must deliver more than words on inequality.
Albanese must stop wheeling out the memory of his mother for political gain until he acts to ensure single parents who aren’t in paid work receive adequate financial support. Under rules introduced by Labor when he was last in cabinet she would have found it much harder to access the Disability Support Pension. He now holds the power to reverse these cruel changes and ensure hundreds of thousands of disabled people trapped on JobSeeker can access the disability payment they are entitled to.
No excuse to delay
In 1987 Bob Hawke promised that no child would live in poverty by 1990. Thirty-five years on and with a large crossbench that strongly supports increasing welfare payments the Labor party is out of excuses for failing to deliver.
Leading mental health experts say “the first and most decisive action the government could take” to address the alarming increase in mental distress is to return to 2020 welfare payment levels, when they were lifted to the poverty line.
While Anthony Albanese has shown no interest in supporting people on welfare, the community has. The polls have long shown this is the case, and now the only poll that matters has confirmed it, with a record number of people voting for candidates who support a substantial increase to Centrelink payments. The Greens’ record result shows that voters do not fear their initiative to guarantee a liveable income above the Henderson poverty line.
The incoming government’s first and highest priority should be lifting Centrelink payments to ensure that 1.5 million people who rely on JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, Disability Support Pension, Carers Payment and Parenting Payment are no longer living below the poverty line. They should fix payment eligibility to ensure that every person who needs support can access it, regardless of their visa status, living situation or employment history.
We call on Albanese to honour his mother’s memory by supporting people on welfare. We call on the government to take urgent action to act on the one commitment they made to welfare recipients: abolish compulsory income control programs, including the Cashless Debit Card and BasicsCard, without delay.
As new Labor ministers and members of parliament settle in to their roles, we will redouble our efforts to relentlessly fight for our comprehensive proposals and transform the lives of welfare recipients so that we too can have a better future.
Comments from Antipoverty Centre and Abolish Work for the Dole campaign representatives
Antipoverty Centre spokesperson and DSP recipient Kristin O’Connell said:
Like the Prime Minister’s mum I rely on the DSP to survive, and if I had a kid who grew up to believe there was a valid reason for keeping welfare payments below the poverty line I would be deeply ashamed of them.
No child born today in similar circumstances to Albanese will have the opportunities he did. I am the child of a single parent who relied on Centrelink and I’m disgusted by how he abuses his mother’s story for political gain.
Albanese’s sentimental stories are a cynical tool designed to paper over the unspeakable cruelty of Labor’s policies. His “lived experience” doesn’t count for a thing while he continues to ignore the voices and circumstances of those of us who rely on income support to survive.
While Jim Chalmers grandstands about the Coalition’s economic record, the “substantial economic and budget challenges” he is prioritising have nothing on those welfare recipients are inheriting.
It’s obscene for the rich white men in power to cry poor while those of us who are genuinely poor continue to starve, and while they continue to support tax cuts for the wealthiest people in this colony.
We do not want to hear another word of debt and deficit rhetoric from the government.
No more excuses. Poverty is a political choice. We need enough money to live more than you need a budget surplus and you have the power to make sure no one is forced to live in poverty.
Antipoverty Centre spokesperson and JobSeeker recipient Jay Coonan said:
A new government must mean a new agenda, and Albanese must be true to the comments in his victory speech – he must ensure ending poverty is at the heart of his government’s plan.
The language of austerity being peddled by incoming ministers must be abandoned, along with their commitment to further starve the poorest while lining the pockets of the wealthiest.
The past decade has seen the introduction of the most harrowing welfare policies ever enacted and it has created a system of punishment for those of us who have the least.
The social security system incentivises us to leave it with no other safety net. It forces us to exhaust our social capital because so many of us become dependent on friends and family to survive.
People are increasingly unable to house and feed their families. Living costs are spiralling. We need to rebuild the social safety net, and we need to do it now.
Abolish Work for the Dole campaign spokesperson and JobSeeker recipient Jeremy Poxon said:
The Labor party has a clear mandate to end the kinds of exploitation that the community, which elected them, no longer finds tolerable.
Mr Albanese has said that every worker deserves a living wage. We implore him to back up these words with immediate action to end all forms of coercive labour in the welfare system.
Under an Albanese government, single parents should no longer be forced into the brutally punishing ParentsNext scheme. Work for the Dole, which has already killed young man, and injured thousands of others, must be abolished.
It’s time for the party of workers to make a stand for all workers – especially those of us dumped onto poverty payments through no fault of our own.
Media contact: 0413 261 362 / media at antipovertycentre.org
Background and key statistics
Click here to download an in-depth background document containing statistics and links to all sources for the below information in addition to: polls showing strong support for increasing JobSeeker, the job market, poverty and demographics for people on income support payments and those in compulsory employment services.
A November 2021 Ipsos poll found 65–74% support for JobSeeker payments to be above the poverty line in Liberal-held marginal electorates. 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. An August 2019 Essential poll found 84% believed 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. An Ipsos poll released in August 2021 found 77% of people supported a liveable income guarantee above the poverty line. A May 2022 Ipsos poll found 68% of poll respondents said they would support raising JobSeeker to above $70 per day.
In 2020, when JobSeeker and other payments were lifted to the poverty line, the Australian Council of Social Services found that 33% of people were still regularly skipping meals and 40% were unable to afford medication or adequate healthcare. The payment increase and suspension of ‘mutual’ obligations increased engagement in labour market and other economic activities.
The poverty line increased dramatically between March 2020 and December 2021 (latest release). The weekly JobSeeker base rate changed by $31.90 over the same period and is currently $321, or 47% below the poverty line of $609 per week.
Antipoverty Centre analysis of ABS and Department of Social Services data shows that while the unemployment rate has not been this low since before the global financial crisis in 2008 when it was also 4%, the proportion of working age people who rely on an unemployment payment has nearly doubled – from 3.3% in mid-2008 compared to about 5.9% today.1
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: https://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.
Antipoverty Centre analysis. ABS, ‘Income support among people of working age’, Australian Social Trends 4102.0, March 2010, https://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/ausstats/subscriber.nsf/LookupAttach/4102.0Publication16.03.106/$File/41020_IncomeSupport.pdf; ABS, 3201.0 - Population by Age and Sex, Australian States and Territories, Jun 2008, March 2009, https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/allprimarymainfeatures/2DB211BA9B6E1A25CA2576860017C2F8?opendocument; DSS, JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance monthly profile; ABS, National, state and territory population September 2021, March 2022, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/population/national-state-and-territory-population/sep-2021#key-statistics.