(Image: AAP/Tracey Nearmy)

Crikey readers were asked yesterday the question of who, if anyone, thought Newstart payments — which haven’t been raised in 25 years — were adequate. Their replies were unsurprising (and incredibly demoralising). Elsewhere, readers hacked into the ongoing saga of Australia’s high-speed rail ambitions.

On Newstart stagnation

Flavia Pagano writes: I am 64 and had to go on welfare. I have never felt so small and insignificant. The $300 per week does not even begin to pay my bills. There are some weeks that I literally starve so I can afford to pay bills. I have applied for jobs but because of my age I don’t even get to a face to face interview. After working all my life I find Newstart very demeaning and cruel. 

Steven Westbrook writes: It seems to me that the whole Newstart system is an anachronism and has become a cost saving measure for government as people are thrown off higher-paying types of assistance. The original unemployment benefit suited times of shorter unemployment and a different housing situation. Rents are much higher than they used to be, public housing is scarcer and employment is more precarious. On cost-saving, an example is the raising of the pension age. This reduces costs to the treasury, but has created a pool of poverty as many older job-seekers find it hard to get an interview, let alone a job. Successive governments have shown a distinct lack of aggression in forcing a change in attitude by employers, leaving these people in an economic jail of extreme poverty.

Peter Vink writes: I tried to live on Newstart for four months in 2017. I was in no way able to pay for fuel in my car to get to interviews, or pay for electricity. I had to get food handouts and was considering living in my car and not paying rent to make ends meet. I was fortunate to get a job, and it took me several months to get back on my feet. Newstart is a joke and I really do not know how anyone can live on it, yet alone pay rent as well.

Peter Schulz writes: The Coalition can’t afford to increase Newstart by the $75 per week recommended by all and sundry, but they’re quite happy to spend a reported $10,000 to $14,000 per annum per person on the basics card. And then they claim the mantle of superior economic managers!

On Australia’s rail ambitions

R. Ambrose Raven writes: According to rail transport professor John Preston from the University of Southampton, very few city pairs in the world can satisfy the necessary conditions for commercially viable high-speed rail network. But these fast-rail projects appear to be much more about extending the economic range of property development — being able to travel quickly to regional areas means housing there will suddenly leap in price. Naturally it is driven by a board full of ex-politicians on high pay using their connections. Where is the Infrastructure Australia assessment? There isn’t one.

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Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey