Minister apologises for Newstart gaff

Just over a week since Minister for Families Jenny Macklin was caught on the hop and said that she could live on $35 per day, she’s apologised for her “insensitive” comments.

Minister apologises for Newstart gaff

Just over a week since Minister for Families Jenny Macklin was caught on the hop and said that she could live on $35 per day, she’s apologised for her “insensitive” comments.

When asked at the start of the year if she could live on the $492 per fortnight single parents will be forced to do once their youngest child reaches eight years of age, Ms Macklin responded “I could”. As the comment was excluded from the official transcript, this caused many to attack the Minister for not only the initial comments, but also the cover-up by her office. The comment was clearly captured by the media outlets covering the story.

Regarding her response, the Minister for Families said, ''I do acknowledge that my remarks were insensitive and I'm certainly very sorry for that. I do understand that it is very hard to live on a very low income, including unemployment benefits.'' 

The apology follows calls from former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for the Government to “show a bit of heart and do more” to help Australians struggling to get by. Mr Rudd said on Friday that the abandonment of the surplus promise gives the Government an “opportunity to attend to some pretty basic social needs.”

Opinion: Is sorry enough?

With some time to absorb the response to her comment that she could live on $35 per day, Minister for Families Jenny Macklin has taken the unusual step of apologising for her gaffe. Attacked by the media, opposition politicians and even her own party, Jenny Macklin has reflected on her “insensitive comments” and decided that ‘sorry’ doesn’t need to be the hardest word.

Kevin Rudd led the charge from within the Labor ranks, no surprise there, by calling for his party to “show some heart” and use the abandonment of the surplus promise to help those living on benefits. The Greens announced that they would move a bill to raise the Newstart, Abstudy and Youth Allowance rates by $50 per week. And those who will be forced to live on the $35 per day have protested outside the Minister’s constituency office. Ms Macklin was left in no doubt that sorry was the least she could say.

While it’s rare to hear any politician say sorry, unless they’ve been caught in the bed of someone other than their partner, I can’t help but think it’s a hollow apology, given as purely a platitude.

Sorry doesn’t change the fact that single parents, already struggling to survive on Newstart Allowance will have their benefits cut. Sorry won’t make things easier for parents who are struggling to afford school uniforms and stationary to get their children back to school. And sorry won’t feed the estimated 22,000 households which go without food at least one day a week due to poverty.

In this, an election year, we need to see more from our government to help those living below the poverty line, to help pensioners struggling to heat their homes and pay for medication and to make life livable for each and every one of us.

Do you think Jenny Macklin’s apology is heartfelt? 





    COMMENTS

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    Troubadour
    14th Jan 2013
    11:59am
    Probably but it does not help the situation. If she can throw away a line like 'I could live on $35 a day' then I think she should try it for a week - no holds barred - just $35 per day - no car allowances or anything added, to include any petrol, fares etc.,
    We are Aged Pensioners, and do have a little more than that $35 per day, but I am just looking in our fridge and we will run out of food the day BEFORE Pension day this week! So we do feel for those on this allowance.
    Grateful
    14th Jan 2013
    12:34pm
    Agree yorkie. Age pensioner couples receive $43 per day each, single pensioners receive $55 per day. The entire "welfare system" is totally askew in its present form and desperately requires a total review. Too many who don't NEED, receive too much and those that genuinely have no other assets or income receive too little.
    Dotty
    14th Jan 2013
    3:01pm
    I agree about those that dont need the extra get it while those that need it dont get it!!
    Dotty
    grumpy old woman
    14th Jan 2013
    12:01pm
    Try "gaffe" and "stationery". (A gaff is used in fishing, I believe, while stationary simply means not moving.)

    As someone who had almost a $100 per week increase when moving from Newstart onto the Age pension I agree that an increase is sorely needed. I disapprove strongly of the move to cut payments to single parents who need or wish to stay at home for the sake of their children. And yes, I know the arguments in favour of this move.
    Was "sorry" heartfelt? Strange question - sincere certainly, whether politically or compassionately. Adequate - not on it's own - there must be a move to address the inadequacy of NewStart and similar payments.
    justme
    14th Jan 2013
    12:03pm
    Pollies are in a unique position. They are sometimes dammed if they do and dammed if they don't. Whilst they should have the highest standards, they are human (I think).
    We all stuff up occasionally in others eyes, so her apology should be accepted; but not to the extent that we think it will change anything. Especially her position on the subject.
    As said above, sorry wont change anything. It's actions, not words that more define a pollie.
    Grateful
    14th Jan 2013
    12:07pm
    Yet,single people who earn up to $120 PER DAY and couples who earn up to $185 PER DAY, still get a part pension plus all the fringe benefits and pensioner health benefits!!!!

    We need a TOTAL review of the "welfare" sytem which has become totally inequitable, where people now "expect" government assistance as a God given RIGHT and not as it was originally intended as assistance for the genuine needy.
    ozimarco
    14th Jan 2013
    12:35pm
    Sometimes politicians get caught on the hop when talking to the media when questions come thick and fast. I believe that, when the question was asked and she answered "I could", she was only speaking for herself without considering the fact that people living on that kind of money would find it offensive. So, in my opinion, apologising for the inadvertent slip-up is sufficient. I could also live on $35 a day but it would not be easy. It would certainly spur me on to find a job, any job, as soon as possible. I think that is the purpose of the Newstart allowance. If the allowance is enough for people to live on without hardship, then many won't make the effort to go and look for a job.
    Grateful
    14th Jan 2013
    1:48pm
    Exactly.
    musicveg
    15th Jan 2013
    5:34pm
    What era are you from? Jobs are not that easy to get anymore.If it was the 1980s yes I would have found a job easy enough. Now I am a single mum,having been out of the workforce for over 10 years and am over 50 what hope have I got against young whipper snappers. I am fighting a losing battle. And don't ask me about re-training I have done enough courses and education that never got me anywhere. I am now searching to find a way to start my own business but can't save enough to start anyhow.I need to keep my kid fed,educated and clothed,pay rent(keeping someone else's wealth going up) and struggle to pay utilities,car rego(have to keep the old car going in the country) etc. etc. I once had savings from my previous working life but it has dwindled to nothing years ago,I didn't get the baby bonus,that,s what I think is unfair!
    MITZY
    14th Jan 2013
    12:52pm
    I'm pleased the Minister for Families Jenny Macklin has apologised for her comment that she could live on $35 per day. The Newstart is to deter people on it from getting off it as quickly as possible. If you have been on the single mother pension and your last child has now reached 8 years of age, there has to be a limit to how long the government and the taxpayers keep funding single mothers. They still have benefits above the $35 per day on the Newstart and they will still receive the government funding for EACH CHILD they have in primary and secondary schooling. Some of these single parents have lots of children and are quite comfortable and don't tend to want to educate themselves to gain a better life and self-esteem. Newstart will make a lot of single parents re-think their futures and if they want their children to grow up as qualified and educated children with great job prospects the best way they can lead by example is to educate themselves. They can start to educate themselves from when their last child reaches primary school age and surely in the three years to when that child attains the age of 8 and the mums and dads need to transfer to Newstart is time enough to know what you want to achieve in your life. We would have a healthier, wealthier and happier population if this happened. Single parents will always come up with excuses for not being able to study, but there are so many viable alternatives to studying in the old conventional ways. Look at all the courses they can participate in "on-line". I often see tv interviews with many mothers who have created "at home" businesses whilst raising their children, surely they are an inspiration for others to do likewise. The government doesn't need to apologise for Newstart it is a discouragement. The government is trying to encourage people to get out there in the real world, improve themselves etc. that's surely better than wandering around with no purpose in life and sometimes causing mischief.
    Nan Norma
    14th Jan 2013
    1:55pm
    Egyptian. Have you ever been a single mum? I don't think you can put a blanket over every single mother. There are so many different situations. Of course I do believe every assistance should be given to help any woman wanting to get into the work force. Some women have several children (and are not single by choice) and that in it self is a full time job.
    Wendy HK
    14th Jan 2013
    11:17pm
    Egyptian quoted: Some of these single parents have lots of children and are quite comfortable and don't tend to want to educate themselves to gain a better life and self-esteem.

    (Now don't take offence anyone, I'm talking about the only single mother I really know the circumstances of, here)
    What is a better life than sitting on your behind in a beautiful house, lacking nothing and complaining that you have seen all the movies on TV and having the money rolling in from not only the government but also the poor sap ex-husband who she left because she was cheating with her boyfriend. She has so many holidays - she needs a break, she says - from what! While the babysitting gets done by everyone else. I'd like that better life myself, wouldn't you? And then she says she doesn't want to do any training because she doesn't want to go to work!!!
    musicveg
    15th Jan 2013
    5:40pm
    It will only encourage them to have more children,I would do the same if I could but it's too late for me. As for those mums who started businesses,they usually get the support (money) for partners or wealthy family to back them. I have no hope of even saving money.You obviously haven't seen it first hand.Why not go out and find a single mum(or dad) who has no family support and give her a hand.Oh and you need a healthy download amount to do 'online' courses I certainly can't afford more than my 2gb per month(I don't play games or do facebook either).I use it to keep in touch and for my child's education.And fill our my centrelink reporting for income every fortnight.
    Smee
    14th Jan 2013
    2:08pm
    Nice to see that a pollie has the backbone to admit to a mistake. Let's face it, a half reasonable bottle of scotch whiskey is more than $35. (only joking)
    All jokes aside however; an apology has to be taken on face value. Examples could be:
    1. "No carbon tax from my government." Oops, SORRY, I lied.
    2 "Budget back in surplus by 2012/13, guaranteed." Oops, SORRY, I lied.
    Would we accept those apologies. I certainly would not.
    student
    14th Jan 2013
    2:34pm
    I don't want blood, I'll accept an apology. I saw the apology on TV and thought it sincere.

    As for single mums .... most single mums are divorced women not young teenagers. They are doing it hard, usually because their married life was more comfortable and secure (in an odd way). I also feel returning to work when the youngest child is 8 is a great idea. Give the single mums a bit of a break.
    slapsy
    14th Jan 2013
    2:58pm
    I think that Jenny Macklin should be given a break.She was in a difficult situation when asked this question a second time.She ignored it the first time,which was what it deserved,considering the circumstances.What else could she have said?The reaction would have been even worse if she had replied "no."
    Peter B
    14th Jan 2013
    3:18pm
    She has apologised.
    But the real question is-why not?
    It would be very interesting to see a senior politician's understanding of real-life situations and costs.
    Many costs occur at different times, not in one particular week, so you have to really look at an annual budget. Everyone is different; some can probably cope, others are unable for a variety of reasons.
    While pollies can justify giving no increases because of the huge cost, they must also be able to justify the present level as a realistic amount.
    paris
    14th Jan 2013
    3:49pm
    If the Age Pension and Disability Pension are assumed to be the 'basic' wage, how can politicians possible think that the Newstart Allowance (at approx $300 less!) can be anywhere near sufficient to live on. I'd like to see the decision makers try to live for a fortnight on the Newstart Allowance, actually try to pay rent and bills, buy food and medication over 14 days - I don't think they have any idea of the struggle!
    MITZY
    14th Jan 2013
    4:56pm
    Paris, it would be difficult, but your not supposed to "live" on it. You are supposed to try and get a job and this paltry sum is meant to be a detterent. A lot of people on Newstart may be single young people still living at home which would sufficie. They could be married persons where one partner is still in a job and one out of work and the Newstart then is sometimes less than the $35 per day because of the partner in full employment. On Newstart you are also allowed to earn $62 per fortnight before tax without losing a cent of your Newstart allowance. If you earn $250 per fortnight while on Newstart you then have your Newstart allowance reduced by 50 cents in the dollar. There are government incentives on Newstart to help you get a job and train for a job. If you are not prepared to help yourself, then why should anybody else help you.
    MITZY
    14th Jan 2013
    4:12pm
    Nana Norma: I've been a mother (not single). Some single mothers have four or more children. We all have life choices and are responsible for our actions. If a single parent has four or more children and is on all the available benefits provided by government, by the time the last child reaches 8 years of age its definitely time to consider a different path. When the last child goes to school that leaves the parent with 3 years to try out different modes of earning a living before that parent transfers to Newstart. While the parent is working or learning in that time span the oldest child would be quite capable of helping the parent after school hours. I've seen some reports of children looking after a disabled parent and unable to receive benefits. I consider that to be courageous.
    GeeDub
    14th Jan 2013
    5:21pm
    What seems to have been forgotten (sorry if this has been covered by another) is that the Macklin comment (plus or minus "sorry) is a lovely window on how these folk (the 'well-off', 'politicians' inter alia) THINK. This dismissive attitude is the 'natural' default position of 'those in power' Whether this be unwitting or deliberate may be uncertain in individual cases, but operationally it does not make a lot of difference. The worse part of me thinks that these 'sorry' statements would more likely be about 'being found out' than real contrition WITH true understanding
    Peter B
    14th Jan 2013
    5:29pm
    They have made it much harder to get the disability pension, and you go onto Newstart while you are being assessed. That can take months and may not be successful. So depending on your disability, and what medical evidence you have, you may be unable to work yet still not get the DSP.
    When you are over 50 and can't work full time, there is very little out there, especially here. Transport can be a big problem too if you are not near any public transport and may not be able to drive.
    The criteria for a DSP are not as logical or inclusive as you might think, and many important considerations are omitted.
    I found out eventually that what your GP says is irrelevant. You must have specialist support.
    Rufus
    14th Jan 2013
    6:11pm
    Once again we find out how out of touch this government is. Roll on the elections. please.
    paris
    14th Jan 2013
    6:24pm
    Egyptian, I've done training, I'm volunteering, I've job searched, all the things, as you pointed out, that I'm meant to be doing, BUT I'm 60 years old so my work options are fewer. And I still deserve a decent life.
    grumpy old woman
    14th Jan 2013
    7:53pm
    I know just where you are at, paris, and feel for you. I went through it for too long but now get the age pension.
    MITZY
    14th Jan 2013
    9:00pm
    Paris: How long have you been doing all the necessary requirements? I presume you are not eligible for the age pension for another five years? If you have been on Newstart for a certain number of months, I believe you are entitled to a higher amount than the $35 per day, once you reach 60 years of age. It probably still isn't sufficient to live on, but maybe you should enquire about it? I heard on the news recently that the government is trying to get employers to engage mature age people again. I wish you good luck in your endeavours.
    paris
    14th Jan 2013
    8:12pm
    Thanks 'grumpy old woman' - i didn't ever think I'd be looking forward to the age pension!
    Wendy HK
    14th Jan 2013
    11:31pm
    Paris, me too! I'm 63 and I've been trying for a year to get a job, any job. Unfortunately I have only had three jobs (I tended to stay put for many, many years in my jobs) My experience therefore is not extensive and the only two jobs I did manage to get last year - I was replaced after a very short (very, very short in one) time, when someone else came along with a lot of experience in the field.
    Oh well, I am waiting to get on NewStart. You have to wait three months after your last job ends so I have NO income coming in and will be happy to have my $35 a day.
    paris
    14th Jan 2013
    9:17pm
    Thanks Egyptian, I'll enquire
    Radish
    15th Jan 2013
    8:53am
    I saw one woman on TV Current Affair, she had only one son who was probably around 12, she looked fit and healthy to me and was about 40 I would say if that. She was bemoaning the fact she had to go on Newstart and find a job.

    My question is: Why not?
    Min
    15th Jan 2013
    9:00am
    She did not expect the question to be so direct..she knew she could not answer "no" so she just said "yes" like anyone would but Centrelink don't just cut your Pension there are a lot of special circumstances they do consider that the media fail to inform you (eg if there are no jobs in your town etc , number of children, rent assistance, training etc ...then you are paid more). Single parents get far more benefits and pay than we did so we had to leave our children and go to work. They will get the extra benefits of Super etc when in retirement and they set a good example so there are not 3 generations of unemployment. Egyptian is right. We (or the media) criticise the government too much without getting all the facts (and in this case all the extra benefits). However it is definitely harder for the older person and they should get more money but there is now a new Government paid incentive for Employers to employ them.
    musicveg
    15th Jan 2013
    5:54pm
    I don't believe she was sincere. If she cared she would support the Green's move to up Newstart $50. Doesn't anyone know it hasn't had a rise in years,with rents,utilities,food etc going up it's living below the poverty line and is not fair on the kids.There are still many young,fit and childless people without jobs give them jobs first,they don't have responsibilities or the costs involved with child rearing.


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