How much does a single adult need to live on? According to a survey of 500 Australians conducted for the Australia Institute the average answer is $454 per week; around $65 per day.
When a separate 500 were asked how much unemployed Australians should get from Centrelink they settled on $329 per week - $47 per day.
But the less-impressive truth is the Newstart allowance peaks at $245 per week - $34.70 per day.
“Most Australians have little idea what unemployed Australians actually get,” said Australia Institute executive director Richard Denniss releasing the results.
“They know what their own cost of living is and the think unemployed Australians should get something approaching it, but they would be shocked to find out what a Newstart recipient actually got.”
The $84 per week gap between Newstart itself and what Australians believe it should be exceeds the $50 per week increase proposed by a coalition of business, welfare and union organisations led by the Australian Council of Social Service. ACOSS says the increase would cost $1.2 billion per year.
Asked what they would cut back on if they were forced to live on $243 per week 88 per cent of those surveyed said they would drive their car less, 77 per cent said they would use less electricity and gas for heating... and 63 per cent said they would buy less fresh food.
“More disturbing are the findings 47 per cent would cut back on education and training and 45 per cent would cut back on visits to the doctor,” said Dr Denniss. “Poor health and poor education make it hard to get off Newstart and hard to get good jobs.
A separate study by the Tenants Union of Victoria has found the single Newstart allowance now barely meets the median rent in Melbourne and Perth and falls well short of the median rent in Sydney.
Treasurer Wayne Swan has acknowledged the problem but ruled out boosting the $34.70 per day allowance in the May budget.
Dr Denniss said there was ample room to cut concessions to high-income superannuants and subsidies for mining if the Treasurer really wanted to boost Newstart.
In today's Sydney Morning Herald
Are Unemployment Benefits Adequate in Australia
. Newstart won't even pay the rent
. How bad are Australia's unemployment benefits? Bad and getting worse.
. NewStart. Swan takes the point, but says the surplus matters more