Sunday, January 20, 2013

forty days on $35 a day

For non Australian readers, this poem is about Jenny Macklin, an Australian federal politician who recently claimed she could easily live on AUD $35per day, the current unemployment payment in Australia. Macklin earns around $6000 per week, or $857 per day.

welcome to
pollie said whatthe reality television show
where politicians are held accountable
for the unbelievable shit
they do and say
this week
we join jenny macklin
as she tries to survive
for forty days
on thirty five dollars a day
follow her journey as she agonises
over whether to get evicted
or go without her medication
watch jenny macklin
join the public library internet queue:
the phone line’s been cut
so she can’t job-search
on her home computer
jen will have to sell the laptop
for rent money
cause fricken centrelink
fucked up her rent assistance
yet again
oh / it’s fricken centrelink now
is it jen
funny isn’t it
how after just five days
the tables start to turn
watch jenny macklin sit
on hold to centrelink
in her bare kitchen
on the one kitchen chair she owns
for exactly forty eight minutes
of piano music hold
jenny macklin is crying
they can’t reinstate her payment
till next week
by then the real estate
will have had her stuff
forcibly removed
jenny macklin is now homeless
and the women’s shelter is full
she’s lost all her newstart payments
cause there’s no fixed address
to send the paperwork to
jenny is in agony
she has developed holes
in her teeth
watch jenny macklin
trying to access public dental care
reverse charges
from a dirty public phone booth
the dental hospital can’t fit her in
till around next january
all jen can afford right now
is to get the front two teeth pulled
jenny macklin is now running late
for her compulsory job find interview
where she tells them she’s a politician
with a tertiary degree
centrelink laugh to crying point
and say
she has to clean toilets
if they tell her to:
it is all part of her new
job search obligations
it doesn’t matter lady
if you are qualified to run the whole nation

off her meds
and missing two front teeth
she is mistaken for a meth addict
and doesn’t get the job cleaning
jenny macklin’s forty days are almost up
join us next week on
pollie said whatwhere tony abbott
spends a full month
as a suburban housewife
and mum
in episode three
meet julia gillard:
a single parent
who does it tough
when her parenting payment
is drastically cut


  1. yep. watch as jenny resigns from her job, sells off all of her assets and reduces her bank account balance to under $3000 in order to become eligible for the newstart allowance. watch as jenny insists that no-one in her local area give her a job (just to make it realistic and fair) then watch as centrelink advise her that she risks having her payments stopped for up to six weeks if she travels any distance in search of work. jenny shows up at a hostel that advertises fruit picking placements and is turned away because she's an australian. keeps explaining to employers that she just needs them to give her a job and then she'll be able to give them a fixed address, but none of them go for it. goes back to the employment agency that centrelink booked her into and rattles the list off of job applications and reasons for being turned back and is told with a straight face 'yeah. that's right. You look like you're starting to lose faith a bit. That won't help. Have you thought about going to WA and taking a job in the mines?

  2. Yeah, it was hard to know where to stop with this poem :) It could go on infinitely, that's the scary thing.

  3. Fucking amazing Maxine! Far too many people like to think we live in the 'land of the fair go' without entrenched class-based inequalities. That's only because the voice of people experiencing this kind of bullshit on a daily basis is generally not given airtime. Big ups to you for saying it like it is.
    Hmmm... problem - now I want to stay up 'til 3am reading all your other blogposts!

  4. Thanks Cameron. Yeah, I get so tired of "Nobody in Australia is REALLY poor, they're just a bunch of entitled whinger" rhetoric.

  5. yes, more air time needed and strong voices encouraged to articulate such inequity perpetuated by politicians who keep getting elected. I like your use of the word 'episode'.