On the same day that Prime Minister Julia Gillard gained worldwide attention with a speech against sexism, the Senate passed a bill that will potentially leave thousands of women across Australia worse off.
From January 1, 2013, single parents will no longer receive Parenting Payment when their youngest child turns eight, instead moving to Newstart Allowance.
Newstart has a lower maximum rate and stricter income test than the Parenting Payment.
Senator Bob Carr said the government had introduced a range of training, employment and child care assistance that would help parents find employment.
“The government also understands that parents need to balance their family and caring responsibilities with their participation obligations,” Mr Carr said.
“These changes provide parents with the right balance of support and incentives.”
Single mother of two and full time student Jayne Garrod said the reduction in payments – around $110 a fortnight – would make it more difficult for single parents to study and improve their employment prospects.
“People aren’t getting the chance to get further education and it ends up a vicious cycle of poverty for some families,” she said.
Ms Garrod said the government should look at affordability of childcare, rent and bills for single parent families.
“They need to take a supportive rather than a punitive approach.”
Greens Senator Christine Milne, who did not support the bill, said the change would drive 100,000 single parents, 85 per cent of whom are women, below the poverty line.
“I would like the Prime Minister to tell Australians how the children of single parents who are now being forced into poverty are going to have equal opportunity with other children in Australian society,” Ms Milne said.
Jayne Garrod said the change would punish women and children.
“Kids don’t get cheaper as they get older,” Ms Garrod said.
“Who knows what the psychological cost will be to children?”