We’ll have our own committee #LeftBehindCommittee

With hookers and blackjack, because we don’t discriminate against sex workers and some of us are quite the card counters. I try to stick to gambling with virtual money, such as in Red Dead or GTA, as I’m sure I could fall down that addictive rabbit hold if I had the chance.

Oh, the Budget is coming up fast, 12 days to go!

Today, the Australian Unemployed Workers Union launched our response to the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee, since it both won’t have any current welfare recipients on it nor be listened to by the government anyway. It’s called the “Left Behind Committee” and we’d love to have your submission about what it’s like to “live” off welfare in this country and what you’d like to see in the Budget and upcoming “announceables” since there’s an election in 12 months too.

Post your submission to Twitter with the hashtag #LeftBehindCommittee, or if you want to send something longer email it to media@auwu.org.au (with “Left Behind Committee” as the subject-line). The union is going to collate and print the submissions and take them to Canberra.

Greg Jericho posted a piece this morning calling the government out for not WANTING to Raise the Rate of jobseeker. For choosing to not fund it, for choosing to fund other things, because budgets are all about choices and it’s certainly a choice to have called for JobSeeker to remain above the poverty line post-covid supplement while you were the opposition but continue to think that celebrating the $20/wk raise last year for the lowest payments as having done your job and being enough to take you through the the next election? A twenty dollar a week increase that was absorbed before it even came in 6 months later. You honestly can’t believe that the average person believes that people are better off now than when you got into office?

The call for Jobseeker to be 90% of the pension is weak, but I was hoping you’d decide to do it, and then you’d be left alone by many for awhile. I mean it would make a HUGE difference to people’s lives, even if it’s still leaving everyone who relies of welfare as their main income below the poverty line. Yep, even pensioners and the like. Even most single parent pensioners even when you take into account their other family benefits and rent assistance, they’re still likely to be below the poverty line, and then their kid turns 14 they’re thrown onto Jobseeker again, a suddenly slashing of a family’s income.

As a disability pensioner, I lay low. I resent that aged pensioners got ore wiggle room with how much they can earn before their pension reduces, even though I’m not working currently myself. Giving people options to try to go into the workforce is one thing that being on DSP is meant to bring, without the hovering disability employment services telling you you’re doing it wrong, or transitioning to more hours too slow, or taking too many days off for your disability. The slight amount of more money also allows for a bit less stress when dialing up or down work hours. But, the truth is, on the partner rate I’m getting $60/day instead of $80 since I simply have a partner. “Fortunately” he earns too little for me to lose any pension, but isn’t that a whole issue in itself, that disabled people lose benefits because the state sees their partners as their carers and keepers? The same applies for the aged pension, based off the 80s single income family, buying a house, retiring having 1 or certainly probably not 2 full time wages leading up to retirement. Those who don’t own their own home by then are screwed, continuing to rent while rent assistance comes in as an afterthought.

I’d be curious to see what would happen to partner and pension rates if the JobSeeker single allowance went up to that 90% figure, or about $72/day. Where would that partnered rate go to? Would it be like when the covid supplement came in and people were getting more on Jobseeker than DSP? Weird times that I hope happen and create chaos and make people think about what the hell we’re doing to people in the name of a budget surplus.

You can do it Jim, you can lift millions out of poverty this budget. I believe in you?

Ahh, Jimmy Jim Jim Jim Jim Jim, Muppet Treasure Island is such a amazing adaptation on the classic novel – pirates, romance, travel and song. Jim here is the kid, wishing for a better live beyond poverty and servitude, taking a risky opportunity to escape that and sail the seven seas.

Pirating is different these days in Australia, as a country we became quite adept at it before streaming services, and with their fragmentation and price rises it’s on the rise once more. I wonder if the average Jim would prefer to know of welfare recipients pirating their favourite shows or spending that $10 on Amazon Prime? Or, as is often the case, they’d rather neither and tell us to sell our PCs, cancel our internet, give up any entertainment and spend that time writing our resumes on the computer at the local library and applying for jobs that don’t want us.

It was quite a week for you numbers guys, Jim. You got your inflation figures in, and they weren’t great and weren’t bad. What stuck out for me is rent was still going up much more than other essentials, and essentials were still going up more than the less essential things in life.

The inflation figures and ensuing panic on HECS debts (though not as bad as last year!) got you to say you might do something about HECS indexation, oh and also about paying final year uni students for their labor on placements so they don’t have to waste the first three years of a degree because they can’t afford to live for those final subjects.

2024: Rental Affordability Snapshot Australians are facing a rental market that has never been less affordable. The 2024 Rental Affordability Snapshot surveyed rental listings across Australia and found that affordability has crashed to record lows. Out of 45,115 rental listings, we found that: 289 rentals (0.6%) were affordable for a person earning a full-time minimum wage 89 rentals (0.2%) were affordable for a person on the Age Pension 31 rentals (0.1%) were affordable for a person on the Disability Support Pension 3 rentals, (0%) all sharehouses, were affordable for a person on JobSeeker 0 rentals (0%) were affordable for a person on Youth Allowance. In response to the findings, Anglicare Australia is calling on the Government to return to directly funding and providing housing itself, instead of leaving housing to the private sector. Anglicare Australia is also calling on the Government to wind back landlord tax concessions.

Much needed, but of course they don’t solve the problem of all the people who can’t afford to live and rent while they study because Youth Allowance and Austudy are so low and there’s no affordable rentals for people trying to better their chances of employment as you keep asking us to do, through study.

Then there’s the “Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee” that you put together last year, asked them for their recommendation, a key one was raising JobSeeker and other related payments to 90% of the aged pension, which you said was too much so threw $20/week at those people, and they’ve come back with the same figure this year, to which you’ve replied that ppl should be happy about last year’s response and that you can’t find everything hey?

Of course you “can’t fund every good idea” but there’s a difference between saying you can’t fund a good idea and saying you don’t want to fund an increase to welfare payments above the poverty line that would see benefits for all in the community – from ensuring people can afford to feed themselves, to decreases in crime that was seen during the Covid supplements, and might help that “social cohesion” you keep banging on about.

It does sting when you boast about a surplus, or even if you don’t boast about it but just say that people’s health and welfare now is not as important as your other choices – to keep a surplus to later, or any time you announce money for submarines, or  we remember that the stage three tax cuts, while you modified them, still favour those on higher incomes to the tune of a quarter of a JobSeeker’s annual payment. An amount that they would have been better off by last year if you’d implemented your committee’s recommendations.

So Jim, you still have two weeks to play around with your numbers, and my people still have two weeks to try to get in your ears about welfare recipients lives and our ability to participate in society being worth funding. Maybe the image of the older lady being arrested over Canesten and frozen pizza is one that might make you think people being able to afford their groceries is a good thing?

Or Mel being reminded that your other lil numbers guy, Andrew Leigh of the gold plated cheese platter, used her story about not being able to afford to eat and getting scurvy while in opposition to call for a raise on Jobseeker, but then won’t do anything to help her now and instead posts cute cartoons about evidence based policy and scurvy on Twitter, while we try to remind him that there was a great experiment on a no-strings livable basic income here in Australia with the Covid supplement and the removal of obligations in 2020. A period that saw improvements in property crime rates, because people could afford to live.

So, you can do it, Jim. You can raise JobSeeker and other welfare payments. You can raise them above the poverty line, anything less is just a reminder that some people are worth leaving behind, and you don’t want to leave anyone behind do you Jim?

 

 

Five weeks til the Budget, are you trying to dash our hopes already Jim?

You are the federal treasurer. You can pull the lever at any time to reduce homelessness and poverty. However, it means you won't be able to do a press conference boasting about a budget surplusWhat do you do?
Jim Chalmers’ Trolley Problem

It’s five weeks until Jim Chalmer’s hands down the budget that Labor will likely try to ride into the next election. “Cost of living” is the buzz phrase still, and he and his colleagues are drip feeding us what to expect, and also what NOT to expect.

This week Jimmy made sure to play down any hopes for anything significant for those on welfare. We’ll likely see a repeat of the $125 ish a quarter energy bill relief (or we won’t see it it goes straight to the companies) because your bill without it would be a pre-election nightmare for Labor. Plus it’s also been a tool for them to fudge the inflation figures – if the discount is applied BEFORE it gets to our inbox, it doesn’t count as inflation, right? Even though the gov still pays for it, the company still pockets it, and everyone gets to grin and shake hands.

Of course, the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee is yet to report back, as they are to do at least a whole two weeks before each budget. But last year’s key recommendation of raising Job Seeker to 90% of the pension rate was ignored, so I’m not holding my breath for their recommendations – but I’m curious will they go as hard as last year? Or, will they not and say why bother?

Also, where are those backbenches who signed the call for a significant increase to Job Seeker? Were they bought off for $20 a week too?

Welfare Dependency is a Good Thing, Actually

Two alieds in regal gear with text Why does the working class, the larger of the two classes, not simply eat the rich?

Yeah, The Poors are cranky again, this time because a “think tank” has decided there’s too many of us on welfare and that it’s a bad thing. They also decided that the NDIS is welfare and double counted people on that and on support payments like the disability support pension and Job Seeker, so aside from their numbers being dodgy, they seem to think that people on the NDIS are the ones suckling that cash cow, whether really it’s the  businesses and “not for profits” making money off disabled people’s need to get out of bed or shower who are raking it in.

Mel argued today that welfare dependency isn’t actually a thing, and she has a point, but I’d like to also argue that being dependent on welfare is a good thing, actually, and the safety net should be more reliable and available to more people.

People shouldn’t be waiting over three months from applying for the aged pension or youth allowance to see any money. They shouldn’t be having their payment suspended due to an error from a JSP, they shouldn’t have to spend hours on hold if they can even get on hold to Centrelink to get their entitlements reinstated.

Welfare SHOULD be dependable as a safety net. For those who can’t work, for those who are sick or disabled or aged or caring for themselves or others. We should be able to access it in a timely fashion when circumstances arise like unemployment or a new baby. Welfare dependence is a good thing, actually, and I wish Australia’s welfare system was more dependable.

 

Grannies Targeted – Supermarket Pricing, Write-offs and what lands on my Kitchen Table

I love granny smith apples. Always have. Would only eat them as a kid, refusing anything red, occasionally trying a golden delicious. Too tart for many, they’re so crunchy and perfect for this lemon lover. This is why allegations that Coles has been marking up their Granny Smiths more than other apples troubled me, but also made sense, given how many I’ve gotten free from foodbanks the past few weeks.

If they’re more expensive, why would you be getting them free, Fiona? Well, the food that comes to our local foodbanks, via Foodbank, OzHarvest or the local old fella collecting baked goods directly form out the back depends on what is not being sold. This may just be because they over-estimated the amount of while bread what would be bought that day, or they have a shelf of cross-promotional products like Vegemite Brownies or Zopper Dooper milks that were a novelty that weren’t really cared for. Other stuff might be a bit externally roughed up, short dated, or there might be new labels coming in. Happy to receive most of these things and give them a go for free or cheap but it does feel a bit meh to always have things that have been rejected for some reason.

So, my theory on the granny smith glut this month is they’re good apples, but perhaps the over-pricing has turned way too many people off buying them in the supermarket, so they’re being left on the shelves. So Coles has to pass on things that aren’t moving, and Ozharvest are getting them all. Coles, of course, gets to claim credit (financial and moral) for donating these overpriced but otherwise great apples. I get to have daily fruit but the supermarket shopper is priced out of being able to buy the apples they want, despite them being in good supply.

In other news, the welfare rate indexation from March 20 officially came out Monday, and JobSeekers will be getting less than a dollar a day extra, I’ll be getting $1.05/day extra on my DSP. Definitely not enough to buy my own overpriced apples in store.Allowances
Family Situation Previous Amount 20 Mar 2024 Increase
Single, 22 or over, no children $749.20 $762.70 $13.50 pf
Single, 22 or over, with children $802.50 $816.90 $14.40 pf
Single, 55 or over, after 9 months $802.50 $816.90 $14.40 pf
Partnered (each) $686.00 $698.30 $12.30 pf
Single, principal carer of child, exempt from activity test* $970.20 $987.70 $17.50 pf

Pensions
Adult Pension Rates
Single* Previous Amount 20 Mar 2024 Increase
Base $1,002.50 $1,020.60 $18.10 pf
Supplement $80.10 $81.60 $1.50 pf
Energy Supplement $14.10 $14.10 - pf
Total $1,096.70 $1,116.30 $19.60 pf
Partnered (each)
Base $755.70 $769.30 $13.60 pf
Supplement $60.40 $61.50 $1.10 pf
Energy Supplement $10.60 $10.60 - pf
Total $826.70 $841.40 $14.70 pf

Rent assistance indexation comes in around $3/fn for most. The press release reminds us that it went up 15% last time ($13) so we should be grateful and stuff.

Rent Assistance - for payments under the Social Security Act
Maximum Payment
Family Situation Previous Amount 20 Mar 2024 Increase
Single $184.80 $188.20 $3.40 pf
Single, sharer $123.20 $125.47 $2.27 pf
Couple $174.00 $177.20 $3.20 pf
Partnered, illness-separated $184.80 $188.20 $3.40 pf
Partnered, temporarily separated $174.00 $177.20 $3.20 pf

So, I’ll munch on my grannie smith for morning tea and wonder how it’s okay for people to not be able to afford the basics while supermarkets continue to increase their profits and we’re reminded how little tax fossil fuel companies are paying.