Thursday, 9 September 2004

Life on a Low Income

There's not much work around for satellite builders in Australia these days. I've just had a major contract collapse a few days before I was to start work on it, and am now on the 'hunting for work' treadmill again, having knocked back a few offers to take one that didn't pan out.
This is the third time this or something similar has happened this year, so the financial situation is looking a bit grim. In fact, and much to my pleasant surprise, we now qualify for some social security benefits.
I'm not sure that we should: I've always believed that such benefits should really be reserved for those truly in need. We're not. On the money we've got coming in, and now we've gotten rid of most of our income-drainers (actually compulsory savings), weekly income and weekly expenditure are just about balanced. I'm still contributing a few thousand a year to my Superannuation scheme, and rather more to a savings account for Andrew's educational expenses in coming years. But the extra payments mean we can now do things like afford fish-and-chips from the takeaway once a fortnight, and even get a replacement TV for the one that's on its last legs. (It was a wedding present in 1981, and the new one was on sale for less than $400).
When you've got $5000 a month coming in, an extra $100 a month doesn't sound like much. But when you've got $1000 a month coming in, it's very significant.

That's led me to have a look at the coming election, and the various tax and income policies of the two major parties, especially as it affects people on low incomes.

And from the Daily Telegraph here's what Labor's plan will do:
More than 100,000 sole parents and another 80,000 low-income families will lose between $500 and $2500 a year if Labor is elected.

And if they think taking up Opposition Leader Mark Latham's challenge to get a job will help they had best think again, according to The Australian Council of Social Service.

Under Labor's tax and family package released on Tuesday they will get slugged even more, ACOSS said.

Single mothers with two children battling to get child support from dead-beat dads are among the hardest hit.

"The best life is not a life of welfare, it's a life of endeavour and work," Mr Latham said in Brisbane yesterday.

He said he did not want to argue about the reduction in welfare payments but instead wanted to concentrate on the size of pay packets.

His own tax tables show, however, that even if these women get a job they continue to lose between $208 and $624 a year under Labor's reforms.

Sole parents with two children have to earn close to $40,000 a year before they become winners under Labor's package : leaving mothers such as Kelly Metcraft out in the cold.

Raising two children on less than $35,000 a year leaves the 24-year-old single mother $4-$12 dollars worse off with a Mark Latham government.
And then there's this from the ABC :
CATHERINE MCGRATH: But the next caller to Hobart ABC radio was worried, very worried about Labor's policies. She thinks she's one of the losers.

CALLER 2: Obviously I'm a sole parent, but I was one of the unfortunate ones that my husband didn't leave me, he died, and Mr Latham said this morning on AM that sole parents need to get back to work and show their kids some work ethic, well, hello?

You know, I'm here with three kids under 11 trying to sort out our lives, my husband died at work, and he's telling me to go back to work.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: And this is the difficulty for Labor. It's going to have to live with the fact that the losers include groups like sole parents - not all of them, that's true - but one example is that a sole parent of one school aged and one child under five, who earn, less than $35,000 a year will be worse off by between $200 and $600 dollars.

Labor also still has to try to explain why it left the $600 family payment out of its weekly tables.

MARK LATHAM: It's not a weekly payment, it's an annual payment, so we've included it in the annual calculations. I mean, the Government is running the hoax that somehow Australian families go down the supermarket once a year to buy their groceries, and the lump sum annual payment is the thing that helps them at that time.

Well, the Government's got to actually come into real life Australia. The Government needs a reality check. It is entirely valid to say it's an annual payment so we'll put it into the annual calculations.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: The Government claims that's dishonest.

Treasurer Peter Costello.

PETER COSTELLO: Well I'm just saying the claim that everybody gets an $8 tax cut is false, that's false. You've just got to ask Mr Latham that. That is false. The second claim that families will be better off, he makes because he says, well I don't count $600 a year family payment that they're getting at the moment, which I intend to abolish.

In other words, forget $600. If you forget that $600 which I'm taking away, you'll be better off under my policy. He got caught out on that last night, so you know, this is, this is really dishonest stuff that's going on here and it has to be exposed.
It's too much to expect Politicians to stop playing silly political games, but fudging the figures so people can't make an informed comparison is not just the usual dodgy dealing, it's harmful. I'm ashamed to admit that I never realised vicerally what this meant before, I mean, I knew it cerebrally, but it didn't register as being important.

Oh well, hopefully we'll be contacting Centrelink about cutting off some of the benefits soon, as our joint income will make us ineligible for them. Cross fingers.

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