In 1991, National savagely cut the rates of all benefits, including the invalids and sickness benefits. The harshest cuts were for the unemployed.
The unemployment benefit was cut by 25% for young people, 20% for young sickness beneficiaries, and 17% for solo parents. They abolished the family benefit and made many workers ineligible for the unemployment benefit with a stand down period of up to a six months. The 1992 benefit cuts were worth approximately $1.3 billion – about the same size of each of the tax cuts handed out in 1996 and 1998. Unemployment benefits were stopped for 16 and 17 year-olds and the youth rate for 18 & 19 year-olds extended to the age of 25.
Benefits as a percentage of the average wage fell significantly after 1985.The single person unemployment benefit dropped from 42 to 30% of the average wage by 1996. National Super for a married couple went from 85% to 72%. A domestic purposes benefit for a parent with one child went from 80% to 53%. The benefit for an unemployed couple with two children went from 95 to 69% of the average wage. The real value of National Superannuation was cut by 40% when combined with the extension of the age of eligibility from 60 to 65 years between 1992 and 2001 (See Table 1).
(Part of a series of extracts from “Exposing Right Wing Lies” by Mike Treen, Unite National Director)