Today I was in the city with friends and money arose as a topic of conversation. How to make money, how much money things are worth, and what we paid for certain acquisitions. One friend had paid $70 for the t-shirt she was wearing. The other was wearing a shirt that he’d cut to suit his own style, supposedly worth $100 at the time of purchase. Food was bought, myki cards were topped up with money for necessary travel into and out of the city, and we were all (of course) dressed and groomed with clothes and styling products/makeup/at-least-shampoo that had cost someone some dosh somewhere along the line, too.
We talked about haircuts. How much to get your hair dyed at a salon? How much to do it yourself? I used to have bright pink, dip-dyed ends on my long (read: extra spending) hair. I don’t know how much it cost because my mum paid for it, but I know that it was a lot. I also know that I had to pay the same stylist to un-dye it when I changed schools to meet the school’s uniform policy. I’ve also dyed my hair on many occasions at home, or with a friend, for a much smaller price. A packed of hair dye might cost anywhere between $10 and $35, depending on the brand. My friend’s hair was dyed currently, and she’d saved herself some money by cutting it and dyeing it herself. Boys, on the other hand, we were informed, needed their hair cut every four weeks, my other friend told us. So while guys haircuts are usually much cheaper, the cost adds up when you take into account how frequent their trips to the hairdresser are. Or how shitty the hair dye you buy from the supermarket is and need to re-dye it after its faded a week after you last forked out $15.
While we were out, one friend wanted to buy a ring, but it was $20 she didn’t have right now. The other told me his iPhone earphones were ‘only $35’. And that’s when it hit me. On January 1st, the Labor government cut the Newstart Allowance significantly, to an equivalent of just $35 a day. The majority of Newstart recipients are single parents (mostly mothers), meaning that not only does that $35 have to sustain one person for a day, it is likely to need to be stretched to support two, or more persons, children with needs, wants and wishes a parent only dreams to fulfil.
When you think of $35 it might not sound that bad right off the bat. But as soon as you start to consider some of the things mentioned above, it disappears without a trace. Hell, that’s without life’s necessities of health care, educational expenses (such as tutoring), extra curricular activities, hobbies, a gym membership to keep you in decent shape, food, rent and other living costs. How one, let alone multiple people are meant to survive on just $35 a day baffles me completely.
Families Minister Jenny Macklin suggested that she could do it. Acting Greens Leader Adam Bandt will actually go on the dole for a week and see how he fairs with such a measly amount. But the experiment, while interesting, will be rather inconclusive because everyone, including Mr Bandt, knows that once his seven days are up, he’ll be going back to conditions that enable him to work, eat, sleep and thrive as a politician and as an Australian not subject to these conditions.
I doubt anyone would choose to live consistently on $35. The unemployment crisis in Australian is again, set to peak, and as a person without a job, the prospects for gaining one are looking slim. Of course, I am lucky to be fully supported by family, but I cannot imagine this news being sunny for anyone. Especially those receiving the Newstart Allowance who are being told it is just a safety net and are highly encouraged to go back to work. What if there is no work to go back to?
So tonight when you are spending money on dinner, drinks, a movie or even on petrol, spare a thought for those that aren’t so fortunate to own a car, to go out to eat, or who can only afford fast food. Without money for formal or organised exercise, or the motivation to better yourself provided by such environments, many will find themselves travelling down a path of chronic disease and ill health… but that’s another story. And anyway, the government and tax payers have got their back, right? Yeah, right.