Expert Opinion Panel
Jason Bryce – Business & Finance Specialist
Howard and Gillard’s single parent pension cut to be restored?
By Jason Bryce
Next Tuesday the Treasurer Jim Chalmers will apparently largely reverse Julia Gillard’s axing of the Parenting Payment (Single) for single parents whose youngest child is 8 years of age or older.
Leaks and information coming out of Canberra indicate the parenting payment will be restored for single parents until their youngest child enters high school.
Single mums struggle on the Centrelink Jobseeker payment
Hundreds of thousands of mothers and children have lived in very difficult financial circumstances over the last 11 years. The Howard government first cut the Parenting Payment in 2006 but ‘grandfathered’ all recipients already on Parenting Payment.
The Gillard government ended the grandfathering, sending more than 80,000 parents onto the lower Newstart (now called Jobseeker) rate very suddenly.
Parenting Payment (Single) is currently $949.30 per fortnight including a supplement of $27.20. That’s more than $200 over the $745.20 per fortnight current rate for Jobseeker (Single with dependent children).
Raising the Parenting Payment age of the youngest child
The big question seems to be what will be the new maximum age for the youngest dependent child under the new Parenting Payment (Single) rate?
The minister for women Katy Gallagher is believed to be pushing for a cut-off at age 14. The government’s Expenditure Review Committee is arguing for 13.
The Albanese government apparently believes a child should be sufficiently independent by high school age for the parent to re-enter the workforce.
The government was being pressured to return the cut-off age to 16 years but that seems to be off the table. The Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce, the Greens Party, some independent MPs, and women’s advocates like Anne Summers all asked the government to return the age limit to 16 years.
“These are good people, calling for more spending in the budget,” said Jim Chalmers.
“We take these considerations and these proposals in good faith.
The government cut billions of dollars from already struggling single parents
The government is believed to have saved more than $5 billion over ten years cutting the Parenting Payment. Lifting the age back to 13 or 14 will cost $1.1 billion over the next three years.
The Treasurer Jim Chalmers said he’s trying to be responsible with government finances and assist the neediest.
“We are a Labor government, and we will always try and do what’s right by people.
“I need to make it all add up. I need to do that in a responsible way and that’s what we’re focused on.”
The Liberal Party Shadow Treasurer Angus Taylor said the government should focus on getting people into the workforce.
“We have over 420,000 vacancies in the economy,” said Mr Taylor. “The most important priority is to help people into work.”
Unfair single parent welfare payments
I was cut off the pension by John Howard, not Julia Gillard.
Australia’s first female prime minister Julia Gillard is known around the world for her famous ‘misogyny speech’ delivered to parliament on 9th October 2012. That speech has been voted most unforgettable moment on Australian TV.
These days you can buy Misogyny Speech earrings, tea towels, mugs and all sorts of merchandise.
That same afternoon (9th October 2012) the government passed amendments pushing 80,000 single parents off the parenting payment and onto the lower Newstart payment, up to $110 a week less.
These two events are forever linked in history and muddy Julia Gillard’s legacy among many women and parents.
Terese Edwards, CEO of the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children was at Parliament House on the day of the famous speech but did not see it.
“I wanted to clap and cheer and be part of that empowerment, but I couldn’t,” said Terese Edwards.
Terese was with many other single mums, outside the parliament protesting the cut to the single parent payment.
Prime Minister John Howard took welfare away from struggling single mothers
What is often forgotten is the first part of the story. John Howard introduced the age 8 cut off for the parenting payment in 2006 but grandfathered all current recipients.
That created a strange situation where two single parents with children of the same age could be treated completely differently by Centrelink.
Two mums chatting at the school yard gate could learn one is getting a reasonable deal whilst one is struggling with looking for work and poverty level government payments.
My youngest (of three) children turned 8 years old in 2009. But I had only been receiving a part-payment since 2007. I was cut off on my child’s eighth birthday.
I remember helping a single mum friend in 2010 to move into her newly purchased home, which she could afford because she had been grandfathered.
I remember the school gate conversations and confusion with other single parents about payments work requirements.
John Howard’s actions in cutting the single parent payment left us with two classes of single parent. Julia Gillard fixed that – by putting everyone in the same miserable poverty-stricken boat.
Jason is an expert business, finance and consumer issues journalist specialising in personal finance, debt, consumer issues and banking, Jason is now based in Melbourne and works as a journalist . Previously Jason has worked for ABC TV, News Ltd and plenty of magazines and online publishers. You can keep up to date with the latest Centrelink news and information at Jason’s Facebook page, Centrelink News or his website www.jasonbryce.com.au.
Jason is a proud single dad of three children. Follow Jason on Twitter @JasonBryce.
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