Dear Mr Hockey… About the Budget 2014

Disclaimer: I am now fully employed, but I was unemployed for eight months and received Newstart Benefits. I whinged endlessly about Centrelink, but without them I would probably still be unemployed and likely squatting on a friend’s couch somewhere. I am grateful every day that the government assisted me through my time of need. 

Dear Mr Hockey,

I heard you say tonight that you plan to abolish Newstart for people under 25. I heard you say that unemployed people under 25 will go on Youth Allowance (which is even less than Newstart!) and those over 25 will have to wait for six months for benefits.

Here’s a challenge for you Mr Hockey, I want you to live like an unemployed person for a week. I want you to understand the stress of applying for hundreds of jobs, being constantly knocked back, of picking yourself up and trying again, of not understanding WHY you just can’t get a bloody job, even though you have experience, even though you might have an education.

I want you to understand that that $563 a fortnight that Centrelink sends you for Newstart currently will barely cover your rent and you’ll probably live on pasta and lentils. Outfits for interviews are outside the budget, so is a car or a weekly transit pass. So why do you even bother hoping to get an interview? You have nothing to wear and you can’t even get to the offices.

Can you even afford an internet connection and computer required to apply for jobs in this day and age? I hope you’ve already got the computer, as for internet – well you might be able to squeeze it in.

I want you to understand that this becomes your whole life. Sleep, eat, write job applications. Many unemployed people fall into a pit of depression, I certainly did, and it’s a hard cycle to break.

I was one of the lucky ones, Mr Hockey. My parents could chip in and help me out when I fell short. With rent, with a bus pass, with a new skirt for job interviews. But to ask them to support me completely? Hah! You’re dreaming.

But most of the unemployed population are not like me. They don’t have parents who have enough income to help them out here and there,they need every tiny penny they have. And you want to take that AWAY from them? Make them wait six months? I wish you could really understand what you’re doing. Clearly you’ve never worried if your bank account will be overdrawn when rent comes out each week. You’re going to increase youth homelessness! Do you really want to be THAT guy?

You want to help the youth of Australia? Abolish internships, ensure we leave high school and university job ready, force employers to take chances on us. THAT is how you reduce the youth unemployment issue. Don’t take away the small amount of money that allows us to be independent, that we will pay back a thousand times over when we’re finally employed and paying taxes like everyone else, that we probably already have paid a thousand times over when we had jobs in the past.

Stop trying to screw over the younger generation, setting us back now is only going to be to the nation’s detriment in the future. It’s going to create a generation of people who are behind in skills, a gap in employment when the older generation FINALLY retire and suddenly there’s a whole load of leadership roles we’re not ready to take on. Because when we should’ve been at the bottom of the ladder, we were sitting on our couch, writing the hundreth job application that week. Do you want that on your shoulders?

So give us back our tiny slice of freedom. Most of those on Newstart desperately want to get off it, we want to contribute to society again, we want to work. But how are we supposed to do that if you take away the funds that ensure we’re kept off the streets?

Think long and hard about what you’re doing. It’s never too late to change your mind.

This is not the age of entitlement. We, the youth of Australia, are not entitled. You are the entitled one.

Keep Newstart. I’m pretty sure we could definitely find a few pennies to help pay for it… perhaps your salary might be a good place to start?