FAMILIES Minister Jenny Macklin should have been honest and said “No” when asked on Wednesday whether she could live on the Newstart allowance of just $35 a day.
Even your average voter, used to living on far less than the minister’s $6321 a week, would have to say “No” too, simply because like Ms Macklin they are used to living on considerably more than the $245 benefit.
But of course if she had said no, the journalist who asked this telling question would have followed it up with “Well how do you expect a single parent to survive on it?”
And that is the heart of the dilemma for Ms Macklin, selling a savage welfare cut to single parents as a way of encouraging them back into the workforce.
Being shifted from the single parents’ payment to a Newstart Allowance once their youngest child turns eight, and being as much as $100 a week worse off as a result, is being spun by the Gillard Government as a way to encourage unemployed single parents back into the workforce.
The government does not want them to survive on the reduced payment, it wants them off the welfare books and supporting themselves.
There is nothing wrong with that objective, but the logic implicit in the minister’s policy is that many of them are comfortable enough on the welfare payments they have been getting and have no real incentive to get back into the workforce.
However, what many people on the welfare payments say, including several who have posted comments with this newspaper, is that getting back into the workforce is as much about finding affordable childcare and flexible hours as finding the job itself.
Until that problem is solved they will simply be put under even greater financial pressure, which is something the Families Minister should have said no to - in a very audible fashion.