Open Letter to Jenny Macklin

Dear Ms Macklin,

I understand that being the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs in the Second Gillard government as well as the Federal Member for Jaga Jaga must be an incredibly difficult job. You have to participate in government debates and voting, wade through all that paperwork, open community centres, hold press conferences, and who knows what else. Then there’s all that travel – whew! All those demands on your time must be terrible.

So I can understand why you wouldn’t necessarily be sympathetic to those who are about to be booted off their sole parent pensions and onto Newstart. If you have to work, so should they – and they should stop whining about not having enough money to pay for all their little extras. Right? If they can’t stretch $35 a day to cover their costs, either they need to learn how to budget, or just get a job.

It’s great to see you leading the way on this, too. When our leaders set an example, it always makes me proud to be an Australian. You might want to talk to the people who issue your transcripts, though. Somehow your assertive statement that you could live on the dole got lost in the works. You should really work to find it – stand up for your beliefs!

It seems to me that you’ve unfairly come under fire lately, what with that ‘extreme Greens’ fellow, Mr Bandt issuing that absurd challenge. Fancy him claiming you couldn’t live on $245 a week. I’m sure you’d have no trouble cutting down from your current $6321 – and you could easily do without your travel allowance, accommodation allowance, electoral allowance and all the rest.

It’s all about tightening the belt, as I’m sure you know. Why, my friend @theriverfed and I were talking about this just today, and she was very much of the same mind. In fact, she came up with a little list that you might find useful. Perhaps your office would like to distribute it to those single parents who’ll be ringing you up in the weeks to come.

How to be a Single Parent on Newstart Allowance

1. Live somewhere really cheap. Get used to it being socially isolating, with bad public transport. It’s affordable. Estimate about 75% of your income = rent.

2. Use your $15 petrol/public transport allowance getting to half a dozen different shops to get cheapest the food possible, non-bulk (since you certainly can’t afford either a chest freezer or bulk food prices).

3. Never, ever go anywhere for social purposes. Even if you don’t need to buy a coffee, you can’t afford to get there.

4. Be really grateful that your sister pays for you to have a telephone and your mother buys your child shoes, if you are lucky.

5. In winter, when the park is out of the question, act like going to the play area at Bunnings is a really fun treat for the kids. Add a $2.50 snag? Luxury.

6. Forget about replacing stuff that breaks. Never going to happen. Even if it was a necessary thing.

7. Learn to live with paying bills late.

8. Get really, really stingy. Like counting squares of toilet paper stingy.

9. Get over the shame of buying stuff with 5 and 10 cent pieces. And learn to love Home Brand everything.

10. Learn to cut hair, make your own bread, and just eat whatever your child leaves on his plate.

11. Finally, try really, really hard to avoid depression. Chances are you won’t succeed and all access to support has
disappeared. But Lifeline is still free.

So in conclusion, Ms Macklin, I hope you will be encouraged to continue your campaign to shake single parents out of their complacent, easy lives. It’s about time we saw some tough love.

Oh, and Ms Macklin? Do get back to the Australian people when you’ve given up all your benefits, blocked access to your savings, bought a public transport card and restricted yourself to $245 per week for a few months. Perhaps you could borrow some children as well. I, for one, wait breathlessly to hear how easily you managed your extravagant new income to pay rent, childcare, school fees, utility bills, groceries, transport, etc.

It’ll be a real lesson, I’m sure.


The Conscience Vote

(Credit goes to @theriverfed for her marvellous 11-point list.)


4 Responses to Open Letter to Jenny Macklin

  1. There is certainly a lot to know about this issue. I like all
    of the points you made.

  2. Wendy Harmer says:

    Hi Marian…love to talk. You about? I’m at

  3. Lazy Person says:

    Sandra, they can’t increase Newstart, or all of the lazy people will sign up for it. Good lord, they get too much money as it is – which is why New Zealand was quietly sending *their* unemployed to Australia, until somebody noticed.

    signed, Lazy Person

  4. Sandra says:

    Perhaps instead of bagging the Minister we should be trying to get the Newstart allowance increased.
    Helping to get people (mainly women) back into the workforce is the right thing to do. I have a daughter who is in this position and she agrees with this current policy.
    I agree that the current Newstart allowance is way to low and needs to be re-addressed – its a little like chicken or egg or where do start first.

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