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Sep 1, 2012

Federal minister finds it hard to make ends meet

Image: Bill Shorten; finding it tough on only $900 per day

One of the most important attributes a politician can have is the ability to empathize with his constituency, especially in tough times. At least, it is important to be able to give the impression of being able to do so. Most therefore master the art of talking about, “feeling your pain,” “understanding that times are difficult,” “realizing that you are doing it tough;” and so on.

You might expect Bill Shorten; the Employment Minister whose only work outside the union movement and politics, was a year and a half with a legal firm representing unions to have a little difficulty here. Bill though has come up with his own special line to reassure those out of work, that he is really one of them and of course is a battler:

EMPLOYMENT Minister Bill Shorten ruled out any immediate increase to the $13,000 a year Newstart allowance yesterday, despite declaring he finds it "hard to make ends meet" on his much larger salary of about $330,000. He spoke out as the federal government comes under pressure to increase the $35-a-day dole.

Lobby groups at a government inquiry into the Newstart rate said the size of welfare handouts should be set by a tribunal just like politicians' wages. Mr Shorten admitted the unemployment benefit was tough to live on - adding that so was his wage.

"I think it would be very difficult to live on $249 (a week)," he said. "I've got a young family, I find it hard enough to make ends meet currently and I've got a job.”

Earlier, the hearing heard evidence that Australians could not survive on the current dole rate of $35 a day and were falling well below the poverty line, with calls to raise the rate by $50 a week. …
Bill, on $6,346 per week grosses nearly as much in a fortnight as the average Newstart recipient gets in a year, although he is taxed on some of that. He has to be seriously out of touch or cynical to suggest that with three small children, he finds it difficult to keep the wolf from the door.

Perhaps, home economics is not his strong suit.

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