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Speech: Newstart Allowance and Youth Allowance

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 3 Dec 2019

You lot are nothing but grinches working overtime to steal the joy right out of people's lives. Prime Minister Morrison has nothing but 'Bah! Humbug!' to say to people who are doing it tough this Christmas. We know that there are people who are struggling to put food on the table and who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. And what is this government giving them for Christmas? Nothing, zilch, zero.

We learned just last week that people on Newstart and youth allowance are being forced to suffer shocking levels of deprivation. A joint survey by the National Union of Students, YOUNG Campaigns and the Australian Council of Social Services found that over 60 per cent of young people on Newstart or youth allowance are left with just $14 a day after paying rent. Young people are being forced to live in poverty.

Take Harry Holbrook, for example, who works as a waiter in Potts Point while studying at the University of New South Wales. He pays $255 per week towards rent in his share house. After paying rent, he has, depending on his work schedule, between $150 to $200 a week left for everything from food and bills to uni expenses. Harry says, 'Even between the two—work and youth allowance—it’s pretty unliveable.' How can we let our young people down so badly?

We know, of course, that the low rate of Newstart and youth allowance has forced people to couch surf and live in all sorts of unstable accommodation, teetering just on the edge of homelessness. More than nine in 10 skip meals, and over one-third have had to withdraw from their studies because of lack of funds. It is actually physically impossible to live a healthy life on Newstart and youth allowance. That is the state of affairs in our country, and it's absolutely shameful. This government's wicked stubbornness in not increasing Newstart and youth allowance means they are pushing already vulnerable, already struggling, people further and further away from training and studies, and further and further away from any semblance of a good life. People on Newstart are almost seven times more likely to suffer poor health and are up to twice as likely to end up in hospital as compared to wage earners. It is clear that the low rate of Newstart is making people sick. They do not have the quality of life and health that everyone deserves. In real terms, Newstart hasn't seen an increase since the mid-1990s—that's how long it has been.

As the holiday season approaches, it is extraordinary that the Prime Minister continues to talk up compassion—albeit a conservative variety of compassion—while displaying the exact opposite. This is a display of complete and utter hypocrisy that is not uncharacteristic of the Liberal-National party, I have to say. What a heartless bunch you are—draining every bit of joy from people on welfare as we approach Christmas. You are grinches.

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