poverty

CAN’T EVEN RENT ON “STRUGGLE ST.”

This week Labor MP’s reacted nervously to the prospect of taxing the superannuation earnings of the “wealthy”, with former whip Joel Fitzgibbon complaining that even families in Western Sydney on an income of $250k are struggling.

Boo-fricking-hoo, Mr Fitzgibbon! Excuse me while I barf into my empathy reserves because you are dribbling nonsense… Again. Poverty. Wealth. Struggling. What do these terms mean?

 

povertyPhoto: Michael Myers/OxfamAUS
 

I can’t tell you what constitutes “wealth”. I’ve seen it (I worked as a housekeeper at Kerry Packer’s mansion), but I am yet to experience it – at least in any monetary sense. But here’s a test on “poverty” and “doing it tough”.

 You know you are poor and on “Battler Boulevard” when you:

  1. Have to bath your children in an esky of warm water (boiled on the stove) because your gas has been cut off, due to your inability to pay your bill.
  2. You are typing up resumes at the local library because you are living in the local caravan park in a tent without power.
  3. Your children can’t go on school excursions or camps because you can’t afford them.
  4. You think all your Christmases have come at once when you find brand new school shoes at St. Vincent De Paul, that actually fit your son’s feet, almost perfectly.
  5. You water down the No Frills full cream milk to make it last longer.
  6. You line up at the local Salvation Army and humbly ask for a food parcel.
  7. You use a toll road accidentally and can’t afford the toll which results in a $200   penalty that you seriously can’t afford.
  8. You pay for a doctor’s consultation with a cheque so you can take the receipt and get a Medicare cash rebate and cross your fingers that the bank will honour it.
  9. Your bank account gets over-drawn when the bank charges end-of-month fees, so they then charge you a $40 fee for being overdrawn and your budget is ruined for the week.
  10. You can’t scrape together enough silver coins for the Tooth Fairy jar.
  11. Your child comes home crying because he was bullied for living in a ‘pov’ house.
  12. You lie awake at night, in agony, with a tooth abscess that you’ve packed with cloves because you can’t afford to see a dentist.
  13. Your child can’t attend a weekend birthday party for a school friend because you can’t afford a gift.
  14. You can’t afford to fly to your Grandfather’s funeral.
  15. You run out of tampons at a critical time and can’t afford more (doesn’t bear thinking about!)
  16. You burst into tears when a cashier short-changes you and refuses to admit it.
  17. You are paying off all your utility bills in weekly installments on a payment plan.
  18. You have to put back items at the check-out because you went over budget.
  19. You panic every time there is a blackout because the food in the freezer will spoil and then you are eating dry cereal until next pay.
  20. You suffer stress-related illnesses such as chronic, suicidal depression as a direct result of being financially challenged.

As someone who has answered “yes” to every one of the above at one time or another, I find it hard to understand how politicians can be so out of touch with real Aussie battlers.

If you answered “yes” to even one of the above, you are definitely struggling. You are in fact, “poor”…just scraping in above “destitute”.

The idea that a family on $250,000 a year might be “struggling” in Joel Fitzgibbon’s electorate is in so many ways, ridiculous.

I think he needs to rethink his definition of ‘struggling’ because only being able to afford a brand new car every 5 years is NOT it!

 

MORE ARTICLES BY NIKKI McWATTERS

This is Poverty

Scare the Kids? Why Not?

Meet the Bitchmakers

 

*Nikki McWatters has had a varied career, from film and television acting to teaching to legal counselling. She lives in Queensland with her husband and children. One Way or Another: The Story of a Girl Who Loved Rock Stars is her first book. It was shortlisted for the Emerging Author Award in the former Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards and is published by Black Inc. You can follow Nikki on Twitter: @nikkimcwatters or visit Nikki’s blog. To find out more about Nikki’s book, One Way or Another: The Story of a Girl Who Loved Rock Stars, go here.

 

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47 Comments

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Karen

    This seriously made me cry.

    • Reply April 1, 2013

      Carmen Neutral

      I agree. The article goes right to the key important issues. Nikki, I have also been stirred by the comments about the “poor” struggling people on $250K. It really does make make me angry to see how far removed, some people are, from the realities of being on a low fixed income, or welfare payment such as the Newstart allowance. I have some understanding, having been on Newstart for about eleven months. I have a blog – 50 shades of unemployment, and write about the subject in my latest post: “$250 is struggle street for some Australians: Please explain?” (http://50shadesofunemployment.blogspot.com.au)

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Dianne

    What is Joel Fitzgibbon on about? Is he being foolish or malicious? I suggest he has just aimed another kick at Julia Gillard. And missed. Most of us would snort at the suggestion that people on $250,000 a year can’t make ends meet. They must be living way beyond their means. Fitzgibbon’s comments are a kick in the teeth to those who are genuinely struggling. Why should they have to subsidize the well-off. Both major parties would be well advised to rid this country of middle-class welfare and one off payments. Education, health and public transport are priorities for most of us.

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Hannah

    John Scalzi (now an acclaimed US author) did a phenomenal list of these on his blog at http://whatever.scalzi.com/2005/09/03/being-poor/. It makes me cry to read it. Cry and thank my luck and my phenomenal family.

    Thanks so much for writing this, Nikki. It’s a reminder we all need, not just our politicians.

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Sally

    Are people on high incomes struggling or are their expectations, lifestyle and debts too high. When we had to cut down to one income we certainly realised what was actually a necessity and how many things we take for granted are a luxury.

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Astro

    Some will say they struggle to survive on $250k. Sure they do. It’s because they have over committed to a mortgage, want all the new and best things, big house in expensive suburb, pay for private education, take regular holidays. If you can’t afford any of those things don’t have them. They are a luxury (yes private education is a luxury no matter how much you think your child ‘needs’ it). I don’t begrudge anyone a $250+ k salary. Go for it! But – don’t expect us to support you via ‘middle class’ welfare. And don’t complain if you can’t afford stuff (including the high cost of kids) because you’ve not managed your finances very well or want a champagne life on a beer budget!.

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Jacqui

    Fantastic article. Many years ago I was a TAFE counsellor and met with the local member (frank sartor) about a proposed rise in TAFE fees. Trying to explain to him how significant a difference even a $10 rise would make to many of my clients was an impossible task. He was like “can’t they get a job?”. The fact that many worked three jobs, were raising kids and studying to try for a better life, all while scrimping for every cent (they seriously couldn’t afford the $20 for a text or whatever), that is struggling.

    They simply have no understanding whatsoever, and rather than making these ridiculous and insulting statements, they should look at ways they can tax billionaires like Nathan Tinkler who despite having assets in the billions claims his yearly income is less than $10,000???!!

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Belle

    God I think i love you Nikki. Well said. I would love to struggle on $250,000 a year.

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    chris

    Couldnt agree more, wish we could “struggle” on half of 250,000. Talk about out of touch politicians. You are not struggling when you are paying off a McMansion, 4wd, boat etc. Its your own fault for taking on too much credit. Try living on Centrelink or minimum wage. Having once been a single parent I know what struggling is. I would count the slices of bread left to make sure we had enough for sandwiches for the kids lunches. I worked nights so we didnt have to pay childcare, the kids uniforms came from Vinnies.
    You are an idiot Fitzgibbon!!

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    me

    It shows just how much our consumer society has lost the plot when politicians make such remarks.

    And underlying the 20 questions, the crushing shame of it all, the sadness of feeling as if your children have been let down, hating people to feel sorry for you, feeling on the outer and unwanted.

    Sometimes it is such a small thing to make a sensitive offer of help and it can mean so much. I have people close to me in this situation and it can be tricky but there are ways of helping without making them feel small.

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Nel Matheson

    Oh yes, been there, done most of them! I feel very wealthy when my bank balance has enough in it to cover a visit to the doctor without panic! Our politicians have no idea. NONE!
    If I’m really lucky, and with careful management, I will have solar power and water tanks by the time I retire ( well after the 65 year mark!) so I can hopefully exist on the old age pension, with a tiny safety cushion tucked away.
    I’m not complaining, I have enough for my needs, and my needs are simple. I work hard to maintain good health so I can have a good food garden and some chooks.
    In the meantime, I work hard, save as many pennies as I can, and thank the powers that be for my health and great friends!

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Janet G

    I was hoping Joel Fitzgibbon would have honoured his pledge last week for us not to hear from him before the election.

    $250,000 and you are doing it tough? I say, first world problems. There are many of us that live in third world within your own country Fitzgibbon. We have no chance of getting that house or that mortgage. The bank passed us by years ago.

    I say listen to the new pope and learn to live simply. We do and, hey, even if there are moments like the ones that are described above, I am happy if my loved ones are happy- and, when I look at is sitting around playing cards together and laughing, I realise that we are probably happier than you, Joel Fitzgibbon.

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Dianne

    Oh Me, hot tears are prickling. The sadness. The shame, the worry, the anger that one’s own babies have been let down, the pride. It does not take much imagination to imagine oneself in such a position but to experience it …. How could Joel Fitzgibbon be so foolish, so insensitive, so careless, so ignorant. Do people on $250,000 a year really tell him that they are struggling? Does it occur to him to ask them why? I would love to know their answers.

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Rhoda

    Very odd. Considering that only recently sole parents were told that they could survive very well on newstart. How much is that again?

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    karenne eccles

    WT? these people need to get real , such a joke, everything has already been said above ….

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Will Marshall

    Yes I have been in some of these situations, those lucky buggers living on 250k have no idea!!

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Aeron Winters

    I totally agree Nikki. I know what it is like to experience many of the things on your list. I am happy to say that through a lot of hard graft we are no longer on struggle street, although I still budget very carefully and our only car is 20 years old. For me the worst was having to ask the Salvos for help. I hated going to ask for food or nappies, etc. It was even worse when they gave us some small pressies for the kids for Christmas. I know poor when I see it and if we were in that 250k bracket we would be living like kings I can tell you.

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Caitlin

    I think I lost my comment. Here’s the shorter version:

    People on $250K a year are in no sense “struggling” but nor should they have their super raided. The ridiculousness of Fitzgibbon’s comments are detracting from the actual issue.

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Dianne

    Nor should they have their superannuation subsidized by tax concessions Caitlin.

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Rhoda

    And that’s just it. The rich would rather keep their tax concessions and call themselves hard done by then yield a cent of taxpayer’s money to those living below the poverty line. One rule for them and one for the rest of us.

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Very fortunate person

    I have been on struggle street (not as bad as the author though) and am now in a wealthy household (same partner for 30 years, we’ve done it by hard work and living within our means). The difference was lots of years of part time study, mega hecs debt, and eventually a ‘real’ job, not eeking out an existence part-time and casual contracts. As a household that has taken advantage of super concessional contributions – because we could – I don’t see why anything should be introduced retrospectively but neither of us have any problem paying a higher tax on it from a date in the future, nor have we ever claimed family tax benefit ( with contract work for so many years it wasn’t worth guessing my income, getting it wrong and having to find it to pay it back). We don’t get a private healthcare rebate any more – nor should we. What I would like to see go too is all the negative gearing tax breaks for borrowing a lot, claiming the interest as a deduction and the rort of making yourself a company and leasing a posh car through it. We realise and appreciate how immensely fortunate we are and we don’t object to giving back.

    • Reply March 29, 2013

      Janet G

      I appreciate that you must work hard, ‘very fortunate person’, but so do many other people, yet they do not receive any rewards for their hard work, perhaps through lack of opportunity. I remember my mother, Nana and mother-in-law, all who worked very hard through their lives, however they all ended their lives in quite meagre circumstances. I do not think we can equate effort with reward all the time, it is often dependent upon luck.

      Therefore, in the context of Joel Fitzgibbon, he should understand the difference principle. It is okay if there are inequalities in society, as long as the ones who have the most advantages are able to benefit those who are the most disadvantaged.

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Emily C

    Thanks Nikki, been through similar and still struggling every day. One day that show respect and support single mums is my vision. My kids are 18 and 20 years. Survived DV when they were 4 and 6. Struggled with one disabled child, worked part time, while studying, got a degree and post grad, working full time now , not permanent can give me a weeks notice anytime. All money goes on rent, bills surviving with an elderly mother to care for as well. No history of super, limited support and family support that DV wipes out, history of anxiety and depression and anxiety that DV causes, workmates have no idea while they talk of overseas holidays, and rental properties, holidays are spent at home. I know of many women in same position, no super , no future. One day the will open there eyes and see what really goes on at the other end of the scale. Lower income, Lower status single mothers will always have no say as they are all just trying to survive day to day and do not have the strength to fight . They may be your workmates but you have no idea what they have been through and what they are doing to survive . Thanks :)

  • Reply March 29, 2013

    June Just

    Joel Fitzgibbon promised us he would shut his mouth. What a shame he didn’t keep his word and just had to prove to everybody that not only does he have bad judgement and is nasty but he is a fool too.

  • Reply March 29, 2013

    Geoffrey

    Struggling? more likely struggling to maintain their lifestyle of private schooling, flat screen television, holidays overseas, McMansions with media room, parents’ retreat, three bathrooms study and outdoor entertaining area more likely.
    What utter trash Fitsgibbon speaks.
    If this is the attitude of politicians then no wonder we are all doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.

  • Reply March 29, 2013

    Jack Richards

    And to think that Fitzgibbon is supposedly a member of the party that looks after “battlers”!

    Just shows how out of touch they are.

    I’m a self-funded retiree living on about $28K a year. I own my own home and there’s just me and the dog – but I still struggle and I’ve just had to get my 18 year-old car registered – and that’s all gone on the plastic at 20.95%.

    I think I am very lucky. I don’t know how people paying rent and with families and earning not-much-more than me survive. I don’t know anyone earning the supposed “average income” of about $65,000/annum – most people I know earn well below that.

    And there he is, the working-class hero, crying poor while he pockets his $250K Ministerial salary plus the indecent superannuation he’ll get all funded by tax-payers forever. They really live in another world.

    Don’t they make you sick!

  • Reply March 29, 2013

    Mel

    I’ve done some of those. Now I’m in a better position, not $250 k but comfortable, so I don’t resent my taxes going to help those less fortunate at all, in fact I think it’s a sign of an empathic society. We have a modest house, no holidays, no private schools and no flash car but neither are we likely to have our power cut off or miss a meal.

    While we’re not ‘struggling’ or ‘living in poverty’ we’re also not rich and I think this is where the disconnect happens. Anyone over 100k is automatically lumped in with the likes of the Stokes, Packers and Murdochs, which is a really twisted view. There is the group in the middle that can’t take advantage of the various tax havens/breaks and aren’t eligible for any government assistance, (which they shouldn’t be by the way), but are somehow seen as having this champagne and caviar lifestyle. They may not be bathing the kids in an esky but they’re not spending summer on a yacht in the Riviera either.

  • Reply March 29, 2013

    Finnola

    This is the list of a Single parent – on benefits – every single one of them, every single day and night.

    ‘Why can’t they get a job?’ – see list.

  • Reply March 29, 2013

    Janet G

    Joel Fitzgibbon should understand the difference principle. It is okay if there are inequalities in society, as long as the ones who have the most advantages are able to benefit those who are the most disadvantaged.

  • Reply March 29, 2013

    Rhoda

    Well I just think that those who get the most benefits should pay the most back and the rich get most of the benefits.

    And because all the real wealth is in their hands the onus is on them to use it to create more wealth by keeping business ticking over and creating jobs. Everyone that pays tax is paying for the infrastructure they use so it’s not a one way street.

    And if we’re going to be digging up mineral wealth then that wealth should be spread around evenly. It belongs to all of us. It’s an inheritance we can all lay claim to.

  • Reply March 30, 2013

    Jenny

    The over $250Ks are struggling alright – struggling to support the lifestyle to which they feel they are enitled! Living within their means is not a concept which they can comprehend. So they expect the government via the common purse (our taxes) to help them to achieve their entitlement?? Give me a break!

  • Reply March 30, 2013

    carole/m

    ” Noblesse oblige ” (pronounced – obleezh).
    .
    Means , ” Privilege Entails Responsibility ”

    Not enough going around in The Lucky Country.

  • Reply March 30, 2013

    sally b

    Yep…and here’s another:
    You take the Community Service option to work off a traffic fine, only to discover that it involves being officially arrested, held in the holding pen (disgusting) at the local cop shop, transported in the back of a divvy van to be held in a cell at the city cells and finally see the cop to arrange where you will do your service after which you are put out to find your way home in time to pick up the kids from school…on a busfare lent by the aforementioned cop because you had no idea any of this was going to happen and had no money on you!

  • Reply March 31, 2013

    carole/m

    I’m sorry for your dreadful experience Sally B , sounds absolutely outrageous. I don’t know what State you live in but maybe you should write to the Office of Police Integrity . When you put things in writing , they must respond.

  • Reply March 31, 2013

    ro.watson

    Real.

  • Reply April 2, 2013

    Chris M

    Presently on Sickness Benefits have been since December due to hip replacement(47yr old). Thought would be able to return too work. Now the other hip is as if not worse than the other was. Not able to stand or walk let alone work. Was given a time frame of 12 Mth before next operation. Am expected to live on $248pw for the next 15-16 Mth. From that have to pay mortgage, electricity, food, medications, telephone. Would like to know how when mortgage is $198pw and get this not even entitled to travel concessions on public transport. Now Noel let me have even $40k and I’ll be sweet as mate!

    • Reply April 4, 2013

      barbara

      Yes i’m in a similar situation, too scared to look at my bank balance. Work is drying up and being over 50 makes it harder to get work. Art and writing doesnt pay the bills. May have to sell the house and live in the country to afford to live. Never been this broke before

  • Reply April 2, 2013

    Chris M

    Oops typo Joel…

  • […] Can’t Even Rent on “Struggle Street”  […]

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  • Reply July 25, 2013

    gardnerm

    Is Joel Fitaidiot, for real. I live on a cares pension and 2/3 of it goes on the mortgage and I am still better off then many others.

  • Reply August 17, 2013

    Carolynn Varner

    What a sad story this is.

  • […] Can’t Even Rent on Struggle Street […]

  • […] Can’t Even Rent on Struggle Street […]

  • Reply January 28, 2014

    Jeanette Fornier

    I cried when I realised I have done most of these things, still do! I live on disability and life is never going to be EASY, because it takes so long to get into public housing or to receive help of any kind. I don’t mind for myself but it is heart-wrenching when you are bringing children up in poverty and they can’t understand why they can’t have something everyone else has, like nintendo and more than one pair of shoes… It isn’t so much each battle , but the constant state of war that creates a sense of betrayal… Then to add insult to injury, should I have a flat screen television people are disapproving that we actually have any enjoyment out of life because I didn’t *work* for it, or that I have an iphone, like i should be sending messages via carrier pigeon because I am on disability, with absolutely no understanding that being on disability means contacting the outside world is necessary and at time lifesaving ( I have Addison’s and I have a child with anaphylaxis).

  • […] Can’t Even Rent on Struggle Street […]

  • […] Can’t Even Rent on Struggle Street […]

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