Minister must retract offensive Newstart comments, apologise and take urgent action

Offensive comments made by the Minister of Social Services show she is out-of-touch with the harsh realities of  trying to get by on Newstart and the strong community support for an urgent, real increase after 25 years. 

The Australian Council of Social Service is calling on the Minister to retract the comments and apologise to the hundreds of thousands of people trapped in poverty on Newstart.  

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said it was inexcusable for any Minister, especially for the Minister for Social Services, to show such a lack of understanding and empathy for people looking for paid work in today’s competitive job market. 

“The Minister’s out-of-touch, inexcusable comments make it clear she needs to spend more time with people on Newstart, who are skipping meals, sleeping rough and going without the very basics in our wealthy country. 

“Instead of making irresponsible, stigmatising comments, the Minister should focus getting people through tough times by increasing Newstart, which 72% of the community agrees is overdue.” 

CEO of the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children, Terese Edwards, who was at the event where the Minister made the offensive comments, said: 

“At the event, I asked the Minister to broker a meeting between the Prime Minister and people on Newstart about the urgent need for a real increase to the payment after 25 years. The Minister’s deplorable comments make it all the more obvious why this forum needs to happen. 

“People on Newstart, including 100,000 single parents trying to raise kids on next to nothing, should not have to put up with this sort of stigma while they’re doing everything they can to find paid work and make ends meet.” 

South Australian Council of Social Service CEO Ross Womersley said many people in South Australia on Newstart were ready to meet with the Minister, who is a South Australian Senator. 

“Given the Minister’s home state of South Australia, has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the nation, it’s even more incomprehensible that the Minister could make these comments, which show a lack of understanding that people are working hard to find employment, while barely surviving on such an inadequate income support payment. 

“People on Newstart include young people making trying to get their foot in the door of the workplace, single parents juggling caring responsibilities, older people confronting age discrimination, and people with disability who have been refused the Disability Support Pension,” Mr Womersley said.  

Submissions to a recent ACOSS survey highlighted the harsh reality of trying to get by on Newstart: 

“I eat once a day, at night”.

“I halve my dosages of medicines so they last longer.” 

I don’t go to watch my kids play sport because I have to pay an entrance fee into the oval.”