After decades in Parliament, Barnaby Joyce is finally empathising with Australians on Newstart.
Why, you may ask?
Well, it’s not because he’s finally twigged to the fact that living off $40 a day might actually be next to impossible. Especially considering the significant and ever-growing cost of living pressures across every state and territory, and the fact that after rent, Newstart payments actually equate to just $17 a day.
It’s not because he’s talked to any of the 723,000 recipients of Newstart and understood their daily struggle. He’s not heard firsthand the conflict they feel at making a regular choice for themselves and their families of whether to heat their home or eat regular meals.
It’s not because he feels horrified and ashamed that the Government’s Newstart payments haven’t increased in real terms for twenty five years. Nor that some members of Parliament (many on his own side) continue to ignore the issue altogether.
The reason Barnaby’s campaigning for an increase in Newstart payments is because he– a man on a $211,000 annual salary plus various benefits that push that closer to $250,000– is feeling the pinch.
Under the headline “I’m skint”, Joyce gave an interview to the Courier Mail on Monday suggesting his personal financial situation was a precarious one, and that buying a daily cup of coffee was now a real treat.
“It’s not that I’m not getting money, it’s just that it’s spread so thin,” he said.
Joyce declared that since the breakdown of his marriage to Natalie Joyce in 2017 and commencement of his affair with now partner, Vikki Campion, he’s been forced to support two families, causing very real financial woes.
The pressure has apparently led Joyce to have to kill his own livestock for meals, live in a modest apartment, fix his own broken household items and “rarely if ever go out for dinner.”
“The big thrill of the day to be honest is a cup of coffee,” he said.
While it’s fundamentally good that Joyce has had this long overdue epiphany, it’s pretty hard to stomach that he only got there based on a reflection of his own, personal circumstances. Especially since Barnaby Joyce’s personal circumstances are pretty, bloody cushy.
When the median salary in Australia is just $65,577 a year and the minimum is a measly $38,000, it’s hard to accept that a well-educated man, living on close to $250k is doing it tough.
Before crying poor, perhaps Joyce should have attempted to walk a day in the shoes of someone living below the poverty line– like most of those on Newstart.
He should have visited and spoken with some of the country’s most vulnerable, including hundreds of homeless people trying to survive this Winter.
Or perhaps, he could meet with one of the thousands of Australian women who retire with next to no financial security, despite having spent their lives raising children and being squashed out of fair employment.
Barnaby Joyce could have reached his epiphany in so many other more justified, and more meaningful ways. But the fact he reached it only after licking his self-inflicted wounds and feeling sorry for himself, reveals a fair bit about the Nationals MP.