Castlemaine resident David Wybar had been on Newstart for three years. He was unemployed, and Castlemaine is not exactly thriving with job opportunities.
It got worse. In September last year, he was told by his doctor that he has prostate cancer and required treatment.
Doing the right thing, he told Centrelink. They decided that he no longer qualified for Newstart. He applied for the Disability Support Pension. He was knocked back on this as well.
The reason for not being accepted for disability is that he did not qualify on Centrelink’s Impairment Table. You must score 20 points on it. This life threatening disease is not considered an impairment and sufferers are deemed to still be suitable for work, even while going through harsh radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatment.
If he had not fought back, he would have been left complexly high and dry.
Newstart was eventually restored. But it’s difficult to manage with the extra cost of daily trips to the next town to get treatment on just $310 a week.
“I need my money so I can put petrol in my car, because I know that I’ve got seven weeks of radiotherapy coming up, which is gonna involve me doing a 180K round trip, five days a week.” He says.
This is typical of the treatment given to all cancer patients.
There is no excuse for it. Anyone who has experienced or seen a loved one doing through it knows how debilitating it is, and how difficult it is for sufferers to work. It is often impossible. No matter what a Centrelink table suggests, or the decisions made by people who have no expertise in the area or are not allowed to make any other decision.
It says a lot about a government that is prepared to do this to a vulnerable group of Australians. Disability support should be made immediately available to all cancer sufferers.
The case has once again raised the inadequacy of Newstart. At the maximum that David Wybar gets, it remains well below the poverty line. No one should be forced to live like this. Newstart has not increased in real terms since 1994, and the cost of living has soared since then.
Unemployment is not the fault of those out of work. Justice demands that this be increased enough to provide the means to live from week to week.