We’ve all heard it. The confident declaration by a friend, relative or work colleague that the country is being ruined by all the dole bludgers out there; people living all too well off the money we earn and they don’t.

The problem is, it’s just not true. You know the dole and other allowances paid to the unemployed are too low when the Business Council of Australia and one of the country’s leading conservative economists are in lockstep with the Australian Council of Social Services and even the Greens in insisting Newstart payments be lifted by at least $50 /week.

This week Chris Richardson of Deloitte Access Economics – yes the mob the Coalition parties regularly employ to do their economic modelling – had this to say about the Newstart and Youth Allowances.

“It is our standout failure as a nation…We don’t have a dole-bludger problem — what we have is a society that is unnecessarily cruel”

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In 2012 the Business Council of Australia made a submission to a government inquiry in which it argued that

The rate of the Newstart Allowance for jobseekers no longer meets a reasonable community standard of adequacy and may now be so low as to represent a barrier to employment.

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Given there has been no lift in the real level of the payment since then they are still arguing this. Last year, for example, the president of the BCA continued to make the case.

The inadequacy of payments was demonstrated by research at the UNSW. In 2017 the researchers identified the living costs of households where the adults were unemployed and found that in every case unemployment benefits were not sufficient.

So far from dole bludgers living the life of Riley on our hard earned taxes, the reality is stated by Cassandra Goldie of ACOSS

“If you cannot get paid work and you are relying on income support you’re living in poverty, you do not have enough to make ends meet, to cover even the basics,”

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As the budget is handed down next week the BCA, ACOSS and Chris Richardson are not likely to agree on many things, but they all agree on this: unemployments benefits must rise and that we can afford it.

“In a country like Australia where we are overall one of the most wealthy countries in the world, none of us should accept that we cannot afford a social security safety net.

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