Senate debates

Tuesday, 2 August 2022


JobSeeker Payment

1:34 pm

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

( Today I have the honour of sharing, in her own words, a statement from Melissa, a person struggling to survive on the on the meagre JobSeeker payment:

I'm on Jobseeker with a reduced capacity to work due to chronic illness and disability. I live on 330 dollars a week. It was hard to survive before inflation hit but now it's devastating.

I'm great at budgeting but now budgeting means not buying the basics. It means rationing out food to last a fortnight. If I've budgeted well I can eat one meal a day. If another expense comes up I have to choose which days I need to skip food completely. I try to choose days I have no appointments so I can sleep through the hunger.

In November last year I was diagnosed with scurvy and malnutrition. Let that sink in. A country as wealthy as Australia and I'm unable to eat enough good food to get the nutrients I need to live. This has a devastating effect on my health. How can I possibly get work-ready when I can't afford to live? Yet jobseekers are expected to be able to find employment under these conditions.

Prices are rising and Jobseeker isn't. I'm isolated from my community and have lost countless friends because I can't afford to grab a coffee with them. There's nothing to look forward to and I've become hopeless … It's day after day of being in survival mode. It's stressful and it's demeaning.

But you have the power to change that for me and millions of others. Poverty is a policy choice. Instead of punishing us for not being employed you could take a chance that raising job seeker would also raise our chances for getting work-ready.

It's time to start fighting poverty and not the poor!