Responding to Minister Macklin's comments in Melbourne on New Year's Day, Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson for Family and Community Services said, "If Minister Macklin really believes that she could live on Newstart for an extended period of time, she has demonstrated how little she understands of life below the poverty line.
"Minister Macklin obviously has little understanding of the cost of living and the problems of trying to make ends meet when living on income support. If she did she wouldn't be making claims that she could live on it.
"I would urge Minister Macklin to follow my example and try living on Newstart, for even just a week, and get a better understanding of the difference fifty dollars a week would make to the lives of people who are slowing sinking further into poverty.
The Newstart payment is now 45% of the minimum wage and the single rate is more than $133 a week below the poverty line.
"Without a $50 a week increase, better indexation and more effective, targeted job services, many people will continue to be trapped in a poverty cycle that actually makes it increasingly more difficult to find lasting employment.
"In 2012, there were many reports that detailed the reality of living in poverty; these Australians are regularly skipping meals, struggle to fund affordable accommodation and go without even the basics like heating and transport. Similarly, the recent Senate Inquiry into the adequacy of Newstart concluded that the payment was too low to live on for anything but a very short period of time.
"The Government started 2013 by dumping more single parents onto the significantly lower Newstart allowance on Jan 1. It's not a good start to the year, and Minister Macklin needs to recognise the significant and negative impact that this policy will have, particularly for those parents already juggling work with raising a family.
"The fixation on punitive welfare measures means that this Government is out of touch with what it means to care for people at vulnerable times in their lives. Whether it's single parents, those at risk of homelessness or older workers struggling to find re-employment, the Government has lost sight of its responsibility to care for all Australians," concluded Senator Siewert