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Jan 21, 2013

Essential: hard-hearted public not convinced on dole boost

Most voters don't share the view that Newstart benefits are too low and recipients are victims of circumstance, today's Essential Report finds. Plus: who we trust the least (and it's not journalists).


Australians don’t share the growing view among commentators across the political spectrum that Newstart benefits are too low, according to today’s Essential Report. And power companies and the media are our least trusted industries.

A third of voters believe Newstart benefits are not high enough, Essential found, but 30% believed they were “about right” and 25% thought they were actually too high.

Unusually for a social policy question, there is less partisan differentiation between respondents than normal. Liberal voters are more likely to take a hard line — 32% think Newstart is too generous — but it is Labor voters who most strongly feel it should be increased — 43% of Labor voters think it isn’t high enough, compared to 41% of Greens voters. And 21% of Greens voters think Newstart is too high, compared to 18% of Labor voters — a result altogether at odds with the Greens stereotype of inner-city lefties.

More broadly, voters much more strongly supported the view that Australia’s welfare system had encouraged a “culture of dependency” and should be “radically changed”, compared to the view that welfare recipients are victims of circumstances beyond their control, that benefits aren’t generous and it is the responsibility of a civilized society to keep them from poverty. The latter view drew support from only 30% of voters, compared to 53% who supported the more hardline approach.

However, that was partly because Liberal voters were such strong adherents of the “culture of dependency” view — 67% of Liberal voters supported that view, and only 20% agreed that welfare wasn’t generous and a requirement of civilized society. Both Labor and Greens voters were more likely to support the latter view. And the results perfectly match income levels, with high-income earners much more likely to take a harder line (which may explain why Greens voters are slightly “harder-hearted” than Labor voters).

The result, however, might suggest why the Government has been so resistant to lifting Newstart (apart from the fiscal impact) and apparently relaxed about being perceived as so hardline on welfare.

Power companies and the media were the two least-trusted industries, Essential found (tomorrow, we’ll have our biannual “trust in media” results). Just 18% of voters had some or a lot of trust in power companies; only 30% had trust in the media, which was below mining (32%) and banking (33%). Agriculture, perhaps because of perceptions of a life of honest toil outdoors, is the most trusted industry, with 72% of voters having some or a lot of trust; tourism was next, on 68%, then manufacturing (56%). Forty one per cent of voters had “no trust at all” in power companies; 29% had “no trust at all” in banking.

We’re also a nation of happy workers, seemingly. Just over 70% of voters said they were satisfied with their current job, with not too much variation across income levels or age, although 77% of women were satisfied compared to 67% of men. Most people were content to either remain in their current job (40%) or take a job elsewhere in the same profession (18%), with men more likely to want a change of occupation, and 18-34 year olds as well.

On voting intention, little change from last week: Labor is on 36% and the Coalition on 48%; the Greens have picked up a point to 9%, for a 2PP outcome of 54-46% in the Coalition’s favour.


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18 thoughts on “Essential: hard-hearted public not convinced on dole boost

  1. Scott Grant

    So the propaganda campaign to demonise “dole bludgers” has succeeded. So now the powers-that-be should turn their attention to medicare bludgers and public hospital bludgers and state high school bludgers. We could become just like the USA, where the most disdavantaged have been convinced to vote against their own best interests. Wouldn;t that be wonderful?

  2. khtagh

    Howard & Abbotts legacy.

    Last night I had a mate come down for a beer. He told me of his marital problems of his wife trying to kick him out of the family home for no reason.

    Other than the fact that with him not there she would able to get more money from social security due to then being a single mum with 3 kids.

    She has a single friend with kids too who receives more than her & she is jealous of her friends ability to go out on the town more often than she can.

    How many other families have been split up for the very same reason? money over marriage. Scandalous!!!

  3. Djbekka

    And how many years has it been since Fraser said that life wasn’t meant to be easy? Babies born that year may have completed educations, jobs and children of their own now. As long as stories of doing it tough by the poor are seen as special pleading (as opposed to those having trouble meeting the mortgage on the holiday house and private school fees who too often feature in the press), some of the hard facts of inflexible work conditions, few well paid jobs and the complexities of raising a child or children while working and getting further training or education will be under-rated.

    Even the best budgeter living on benefits struggles if an appliance breaks down or someone is seriously ill. If she or he is in the private rental market, would be even worse.

    Then there is the constant reporting to Centrelink.


  4. Aphra

    Some voters think that Newstart is too high? Australia is a very rich country but by golly, we’re a mean,lousy bunch.

    I guess that these people won’t be satisfied until our cities resemble Calcutta,although at night, in certain parts of Melbourne and Sydney, they already look it.

  5. michael crook

    Good comment Scott, sadly the culture creators at channel 7 etc win again. Doesn’t say anything for our education system.

  6. zut alors

    If Newstart is seen as too generous by 55% of the respondents then perhaps we should extend more stringent economies to other sections of society too.

    For starters how about killing off the baby bonus…

  7. Malcolm Harrison

    The problem about asking the general public about newstart and other social service benefits is that they immediately compare it with what they themselves are earning after working a full week. It often seems unfair that people who are not working should get anything like a basic wage. This belies the commonly promoted belief that people want the jobs they have when in fact they often feel quietly resentful of the ongoing drudgery of a working life. At the other end of the spectrum we have economists who realise that unless those out of work receive an adequate living allowance then the economy as a whole is depressed, the wheels of commerce do not turn and the economy struggles. And of course there are those who realise that economic poverty breeds emotional depression which is deleterious to the wellbeing of the society as a whole.

  8. Mike Flanagan

    Zut alors;
    I most heartily and cognitively agree with your constructive suggestion for our government and leaders to review the use of the baby bonus to placate the quiet and opaque influence of George Pell.
    I would like to take the space to reiterate that under Abbott this contradictory policy would most likely be expanded or at least entrenched for the foreseeable future.
    Little attention is given to these implications and mechanatons to our national future,by our revered members of the press.
    No wonder the populace is sleep walking in this calamity.

  9. geomac62

    I agree with most of what you say especially if a mishap occurs and money is required to fix it . On the rental front I found little difference between public housing and rent allowance on the dole . Of course I,m talking about private flats with basic standards not expensive accommodation . If a person can,t cook its tougher .If a person wants an active social life its impossible , everything costs money these days . A parent with kids I have no idea but doubt it would be a picnic as its hard enough single .

  10. geomac62

    That family scenario sounds out of whack .

  11. Shaniq'ua Shardonn'ay

    I think the public understands the difference between people who are having trouble getting work (or the work they want) and those who are unwell or have kids. While there is some sympathy for the latter I don’t think there is much for the former. The people we see on the streets most often will not be employable until they get over any drug and alcohol problems as well as any mental health issues, they need accommodation and treatment over many years. There are also people who are on Newstart who are not going to take any job and I’ve been one of them, I waited 6 months to get a job in my area of expertise and quite frankly I was happy to cut back rather than work at a job where I couldn’t look for the work I wanted. It was pretty awful and demoralising but I wasn’t going to starve.

  12. khtagh


    It might sound out of whack, but its true, just the same. As a casual worker he doesn’t earn enough, easier to get the government to pick up the tab by kicking him out in her opinion. Authorities are always!! on the woman’s side.

  13. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    The problem iss that the poll questions suck. They’re not questions: they’re talkback soundbites.

    I believe the answers would be different if the polls asked “Is Newstart too low or too high?”

  14. Robbob

    Ah Ha ! Down and Out of Sai Gon ( although I suspect being down and out in Thailand could be infinitely worse than being so here… ) I think putting the question your way would achieve the same result. “Too high ” and “too low ” are subjective paradigms. What a mean lot we have become to suggest that a weekly income roughly $170 below the poverty line as doled out by a so-called social government is enough to even maintain some sort of dignified existence. Can that be “too high” ? Too high for what? Too high because by receiving the New Start allowance you are suspected of being a non-deserving, lazy dole bludger….I’ve been on that ‘allowance’ and I’ve been a reasonably hard working conscientious worker all my life and found that it was not enough to even pay my rent. Maybe if I was a good citizen I should have packed up and lived in a caravan park….of course, finding money to get a haircut and bus tickets to get to the 10 job interviews each two weeks that potentially one was supposed to attend may be a little beyond anyone.

  15. Cazza

    I wonder how many of those who answered the poll were actually recipients of Newstart or those who had just been shafted onto Newstart? Did the Poll ask questions about individual circumstances of those people who are receiving the benefit? I know I wasn’t asked to answer the Poll so who did they get their information from? When was the poll first released, I never knew about it and I’m sure there are many more who didn’t. I can almost guarantee, if this poll was conducted again and recipients of Newstart were asked to complete it you would find the outcome is very different from what has been portrayed here.

  16. Kathy Lee

    Gee… wish I had been asked to answer this poll, as Cazza stated, just how many of those that answered this so called poll were actually in receipt of some form of welfare payment or actually on Newstart? I would love to see any and I mean any person try to live on $35 a day, taking into account that out of that $35 you need to deduct rent (a major part of anyone’s life), most rental properties are way out of reach for anyone on Newstart. So if a single person can not make it work, how the hell is a single parent meant to do it with CHILDREN? maybe you can conduct another poll and this time actually have people who suffer this life answer your poll.

  17. Serenatopia

    It fascinates me people’s obsession with statistics—I ask, does it really matter that much what other people think? I find that Australian media is particularly obsessed with votes! Decency in perspective cannot be judged by what the majority thinks!

  18. Mr Tank

    I wonder if anyone will read this…no matter… I will cry into the ethernet for the sake of expurgation. I stand by my prediction that raising the dole will give a bounce in the polls of 5 per cent. Why? because decent leadership is always a moral proposition and people in our modern world are looking for decency. If you stand tall and stand proud you will be respected. Thank you Serenatopia, I had not read your comment until I had made mine.


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