The government’s contempt for the rest of us has been on full display of late. Scott Morrison has doubled down on his refusal to raise the meagre Newstart allowance. Morrison has responded to the demand that the $40 a day payment be raised by saying that it’s not a priority and that he can’t afford “unfunded empathy”.
This comes as a second senate inquiry gets underway into the grotesque robodebt scheme, which has sent more than half a million automated letters to welfare recipients demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars in falsely calculated debt.
The robodebt scheme cost $375 million dollars to administer and has destroyed lives of vulnerable people, even pushing some to suicide. The first inquiry into the scheme found it was riven with flaws. Rather than suspend the program, as recommended, the government has ramped it up. One of the latest victims of robodebt was the mother of a deceased disability pensioner, who is expected to pay back almost seven thousand dollars of unsubstantiated debt only a few months after her son’s death.
While Morrison cries poor, he has plenty of cash to fund this kind of depravity. But the widely popular demand to raise Newstart (which hasn’t received an increase in 25 years)? Oh geez, no money for that.
The treatment of Newstart recipients is painted as a “harsh but necessary” prevention measure to stop people rorting the system. What an absolute joke, as if those on Newstart are trying to take the system for a ride. To where exactly? Australia has one of the lowest paying and most punitive welfare systems in the developed world, which has resulted in the unemployed in Australia having the second highest poverty rate in the OECD.
A recent study estimated that four out of five Newstart recipients skip meals. More than half have less than $100 a week to live off after housing costs. Meals are not only missed, but showers, energy, healthcare and medication are commonly rationed. And people that once would have received disability or single parent pensions have been forced onto this unliveable payment.
Is Morrison just a callous arsehole? Well yes, but he can find it in himself to have deep pockets for his mates. Morrison forgave and promoted Stuart Robert, head of the robodebt scheme, after he was found by a senate inquiry to have claimed $38,000 in “entitlements” for home internet access – $2,000 a month. ScoMo has plenty of empathy for this, but not a shred to spare for the rest of us.
A rise in Newstart and cancelling the robodebt scheme would a step toward regaining decent lives for the poorest people in the country. I guess Morrison is at least being honest when he says he will never have a cent for them.