House debates

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Constituency Statements

JobSeeker Payment

10:12 am

Photo of Andrew WilkieAndrew Wilkie (Clark, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the petition by the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children that was recently tabled by the Petitions Committee. This petition calls on the Australian government to permanently increase JobSeeker payments by $550 per fortnight and to extend eligibility to carers payment and the disability support payment as well as to temporary visa applicants. To help the House better understand the lived experience of the current rate of Centrelink payments on Australian families, I would like to share a couple of stories from single mums.

One said: 'I just received a warning from Origin Energy that my electricity may be disconnected. I don't have $700 to pay it, and I can't even afford to pay it off on top of rent, food, medications et cetera. I sold my car because I couldn't afford petrol or genuine maintenance of it. My youngest daughter will go without therapy, and I don't even know how I'm going to pay for school uniforms or exorbitant TAFE fees for my 16-year-old. After rent there is barely anything left. I had to ask a neighbour for sunscreen last week, and there will be no school camps or laptops.' Another said: 'The extra money helped get car repairs, new tyres and dental appointments as well as healthier food. As the money has wound down, I'm having constant panic attacks and sleepless nights again about how I will pay for these. I hate not feeling safe, and having a safe car should be affordable for everyone, especially when you have children to drive around.'

These stories, as well as the 56 others that I will seek to table shortly, clearly convey the difficult choices families are forced to make as this government continues with its system of poverty by design. Surely it's self-evident that people are having to choose between medication and eating every day, and that is appalling. I've said this countless times already in this place, but obviously I need to say it again: we are a rich and fortunate country and there is simply no excuse for the government to make Australian families struggle to pay for their basic needs. We can afford to pay every eligible Australian a base rate that would cover people's reasonable expenses and enable them to live a dignified life. That should be an absolute priority for this parliament.

Deputy Speaker, I now seek leave to table these 58 personal accounts collated by the National Council for Single Mothers and their Children. Hopefully the government and all members will learn something from them, and the government will change its policy and finally end the cruelty for good.

Leave granted.

I present the following document: 'The Coronavirus Supplement—58 Statements'.