Shocking previously-unpublished research commissioned for the government’s review of pensions finds one in ten Australians on the dole are unable get a substantial meal each day, one in eight are unable to buy prescribed medicines, and one in twenty cannot heat their homes.
Commissioned by the department of families, housing, community services and indigenous affairs for the 2008 Harmer Review of Pensions conducted by the then head of the department Jeff Harmer it finds that aged pensioners are much better off than unemployed Australians on Newstart.
Whereas 1.4 per cent of aged pensioners surveyed were unable to get medical treatment if needed, among Australians on Newstart the proportion was 22 per cent. Whereas only 0.7 per cent of aged pensioners were unable to get a substantial meal at least once a day among Australians on Newstart the proportion was 10.3 per cent.
Only 2.1 per cent of pensioners were unable to buy the medicines prescribed for them by doctors. Among unemployed Australians on Newstart the proportion was 16.7 per cent.
Although listed as a reference in Dr Harmer’s report the research itself has never been published, either by the department that commissioned it or by the researchers themselves, Peter Saunders and Melissa Wong from the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW...
Asked by the department to examine the adequacy of the payments “to different groups, including aged pensioners” the research compares what it calls deprivation rates among seven groups, including low-wage workers, self-funded retirees, age pensioners and Australians on Newstart. It finds that on almost every criteria self-funded retirees are the best off and Australians on Newstart the worst off.
So well-off does the research find self-funded retirees that on most of the criteria they have no deprivation at all. An exception is dental care where 2.1 per cent say they can’t get access to treatment if needed. By contrast 13.7 per cent of age pensioners can’t get access to dental treatment if needed and 44.7 per cent of Australians on Newstart.
The research finds that “although the results do not necessarily imply anything about whether or not the age pension is adequate at current levels, it does appear to be the case that the age pension is more adequate than the existing payments made to people with a disability, parenting payments, and those whose eligibility for income support is a consequence of unemployment”.
Assisted by the previously unseen report the Harmer Review found pension rates should continue to be adjusted by average male earnings or the cost of living, whichever was the larger. It made no finding about Newstart - found to be far less adequate - because Newstart was outside of its terms of reference.
The $35 per day Newstart allowance continues to be adjusted by the much lower consumer price index. The most recent increases in March gave an extra $3.35 per week to pensioners but just $1.45 per week to NewStart recipients.
In today's Sydney Morning Herald and Age
Have fun, play with this Sydney Morning Herald interactive graphic:
Deprivation Draft Report Prepared for FaCSIA November 2008
. Newstart is so low we don't think we could live on it
. Newstart won't even pay the rent
. How bad are Australia's unemployment benefits? Bad and getting worse.