Jenny Macklin had to apologise after the backlash from welfare organisations and people who make do on the $35 a day Newstart allowance.
Politicians are used to the good life - a substantial salary, travel perks and comfortable living - so how would one go on the dole?
Greens MP Adam Bandt has decided to get a taste of life on the other side by living on Newstart's $35 a day.More stories from Today Tonight
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He says it's been quite a shock. "If the basic level of the dole is such that you can't even look after yourself, how are people then to look after their kids," he asked.
In order to bring attention to the low Newstart rate, for this week Bandt has $7 to spend on petrol, $180 for rent, just $11.80 for household goods like toilet paper, toothpaste and toiletries, leaving a measly $47.50 for food and other expenses. That's less than $7 a day.
"I'm probably not even walking a mile in someone else's shoes, I’m probably walking 100 metres and at the end of it, I'll get to go back to my well-paid job," he said.
And while he goes back to his well-paid job in five days, for 297,000 Australians surviving on Newstart is life.
Single people get $246 a week; for those with children it's $266 and the partnered Newstart payment is $222 each ($444 together).
So how does it compare to other welfare? At $356, the single pension payment outweighs the dole by $110 dollars a week; couples on the pension get a combined weekly payment of around $536.
Jenny Macklin landed in hot water after saying she could live on the dole. The Families Minister claimed she could survive on the dole but later was forced to back down.
"My remarks were insensitive and I'm certainly very sorry for that," she said.
Despite calls for a raise, the New Year instead ushered in tough changes for families. Single mums and dads on the parenting payment are now moved onto the Newstart allowance once their youngest child turns eight. Welfare groups say they're losing up to $100 a week.
According to Terese Edwards, CEO at the National Council for Single Mothers and their Children, "there is 84,000 (people) that were going to be impacted on the first of January, and of that 94 per cent are single mums."
Single mum Samantha Seymour is one of those affected. She's urging more politicians to take a leaf out of Bandt's book.
"You need to get down to the grass roots of these and find out how it's going to affect us before you just enact it and give us a month's notice," she said.Contact details
- Adam Bandt's Newstart Challenge - www.adambandt.com
- National Council of Single Mothers and their Children Incorporated (NCSMC) - www.ncsmc.org.au
This reporter is on Twitter at @tinekae
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