Despite his condition, David Wybar remains on Newstart instead of disability payments. He survives on the equivalent of $44 a day.
Castlemaine local David had already been on Newstart for three years before he got the life changing news.
“Unfortunately, as of September of last year, I also got diagnosed with having prostate cancer,” David Wybar told The Feed’s Marty Smiley.
Instead of supporting David through his ordeal, Centrelink responded by saying he needed to continue looking for work otherwise his payments could be cut.
“When I first reported that I had contracted prostate cancer ... they deemed it wasn't a serious illness and that I was still capable of looking for work,” said David.
To be eligible for Disability Support Pension, one must prove that your disability or medical condition stops you from working at least 15 hours a week in the next two years.
The applicant must also be given an impairment rating of 20 points or more on a single Impairment Table.
It was a big kick in the pants to start with because I mean it's just like, come on guys, you've got to take me seriously.
But now - needing near-daily trips to a neighbouring town for cancer treatment - David’s $310-a-week dole payments are stretched even further.
“I need my money so I can put petrol in my car, because I know that I've got seven weeks of radiotherapy coming up which is gonna involve me doing a 180K round trip, five days a week for seven days.”
Despite his condition, David remains on Newstart instead of disability payments. He survives on the equivalent of $44 a day.
The cost of being unemployed
The last time Newstart payments were increased in real terms was in 1994, when the then-government raised it by $2.95 a week.
In 2017, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) found that the basic Newstart allowance for a single person with no dependents was $160 below the poverty line.
A breakdown of what David receives a fortnight looks a little like this:
Newstart allowance: $275.50
Rental assistance: $29.50
“Energy supplement”: $4.40
It all adds up to $310 a fortnight. According to RealEstate.com, the median weekly rent for a two bedroom home in Castlemaine is $308.
Last year, then-Treasurer Scott Morrison passed down a budget with no increase to Newstart. He defended the decision by telling BuzzFeed, “My priority is to give tax relief to people who are working and paying taxes.”
Our standing in the world
ACOSS’ 2018 ‘Faces of Unemployment’ report painted a damning picture of the social security in Australia.
Australia has the lowest unemployment payments of any country in the OECD.
We also rank below countries like Slovenia, South Korea and Lithuania for GDP spent on benefits.
The ACOSS report also debunked some long-standing unemployment stereotypes.
The report found that 43 per cent of those on Newstart are over 45, with under-25s just making up 19 per cent.
It also pointed out that 24 per cent of recipients have disabilities, as tighter restrictions on the Disability Support Pension pushed Newstart to become the most common type of benefits.
More than half of the 827,794 Australians on Newstart and Youth Allowance have been receiving benefits for a year or more.
ACOSS describes this as, “a serious, and long-standing, policy failure.”
For people like David, who need to survive on what the government deems a sufficient living amount, it’s certainly still an uphill battle.
“Benefits? I wouldn’t call them benefits, I’m certainly not benefitting...I’m existing.”