Welfare groups plead with PM: keep $4 a week payment for poorest Australians

Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service, labelled the government’s budget approach “harsh and one-sided”. Photo: Jessica HromasA coalition of Australia’s leading welfare groups has written to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten pleading for the preservation of a social security supplement worth between $4.40 and $7.05 per week and paid to some of Australia’s poorest people.

The energy supplement – originally introduced in 2013 as carbon tax compensation for people on the Newstart allowance, pensions and family payments – is included in the $6.5 billion of cuts that the government has urged Labor to support after previously backing or promising to consider them.

The Australian Council of Social Service, Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union, Carers Australia, Jobs Australia, National Welfare Rights Network, The National Council of Single Mothers and Their Children, People with Disability Australia and Welfare Rights Centre have called the move “alarming”.

“Denying the energy supplement to new social security claimants will cut payments to 2.2 million people on the lowest incomes, including pensioners, sole parents, single-income families, family carers and Newstart recipients,” the groups wrote in their letters to the leaders, dated August 19.

“Its removal will mean a loss of $4 a week to the $38-per-day Newstart allowance, which is well below the poverty line and has not otherwise been increased in real terms since 1994.”

The groups assert that a broad range of unions, business groups and political leaders have supported increasing Newstart and that this budget measure contrasts with the government’s decision to retain tax cuts given to wage earners as compensation under the carbon tax package.

They also argue that it is “unconscionable” to pursue this cut for new welfare recipients, saving the budget $1.3 billion over four years, while cutting company taxes and income tax for people earning over $80,000, costing $9 billion in total.

“Australia cannot afford such tax cuts when the government is moving to cut the incomes of people struggling to survive on the lowest incomes in Australia, living in poverty,” they wrote.

If this budget saving is successful, new welfare recipients will actually be worse off than if the supplement had never been introduced because the boost took into account the regular CPI-linked increase.

ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie labelled the government’s budget approach “harsh and one-sided”, noting the compromises being made to the proposed crackdown on high-end superannuation concessions.

“Whatever the original purpose of the energy supplement, neither Labor nor any other party with a commitment to a decent social safety net could support slashing payments to people living below the poverty line,” Dr Goldie said.

The government says the funds saved supplement cut are being directed to the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Labor included the measure in its costings released shortly before the election.

Bonnie Millen, acting president of People with Disability Australia, has said the transfer of this expenditure is “robbing Peter to pay Paul” and that “we should not be making trade-offs and false economies between specialist disability support and income support”.

The intervention from the welfare groups comes as the Inclusive Prosperity Commission of the Chifley Research Centre, Labor’s think tank, releases modelling saying that the increase in Australian inequality between 2011-12 and 2013-14 will cost individuals $500 a year by 2019-20 thanks to dampened economic growth.

The report, which says the cost of inequality will grow to 3 per cent of GDP over the next 25 years, is evidence that Australia is “paying the price for increased inequality”, according to executive director Michael Cooney.

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Son calls police after allegedly killing mother in Central West NSW

Not long after a 59-year-old woman was allegedly bashed to death in her home, police received a concerning phone call.

It was from the woman’s son, made from a pay phone not far from his mother’s home in Central West NSW.

He allegedly told the triple 0 operator that he had just killed someone.

Now that 28-year-old is being questioned by police over the alleged murder of his mother in the early hours of Friday morning.

Fairfax Media has been told the 28-year-old allegedly pointed police to a crime scene at Underwood Street in Forbes just after 6am on Friday.

By the time officers arrived, the woman was already dead.

Her son was arrested at nearby Union Street and taken to Forbes police station, where he remained throughout the day.

As of Friday afternoon, no charges had been laid.

Tributes for the woman poured onto social media, with Forbes locals remembering the victim as a “caring and loving lady”.

“I am in shock what an awful thing and what a beautiful, kind, caring soul she was,” Angela Crowley wrote on Facebook.

“I will always remember her kind face and so down to earth,”

Another woman wrote: “this world is so cruel you will be missed…rest easy you wonderful ladie (sic).”

It is the third alleged murder of a woman in NSW this week.

Sabrina Bremer’s badly burned body was found on a roadside near Tweed Heads in far north NSW on Thursday morning. She had been reported missing in Queensland a day earlier.

On Wednesday morning, a 39-year-old woman was found dead in a home in Greenacre, in Sydney’s south-west.

A man was later charged with assault-related offences. */]]>

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Murder accused relieved his lover was having affair so he could leave her: court

Michael Quinn appears in Kiama Court in July 2013 charged with murder. Photo: Andy ZakeliA man accused of stabbing his lover to death in a jealous rage has testified that he was relieved to discover she was sleeping with someone else and was glad of the opportunity to end the volatile relationship.

Michael James Quinn was allegedly in a fury when he fatally stabbed his on-off girlfriend Cherie Vize, 25, in the neck, before turning the knife on himself outside the home he shared with his parents in Wollongong in July 2013.

Mr Quinn, who is a quadriplegic from the self-inflicted wounds, has pleaded not guilty to murder.

His defence team has argued that he stabbed Ms Vize accidentally and his mental state might have been substantially impaired at the time.

Giving evidence in the NSW Supreme Court on Friday, Mr Quinn said he was not “upset in the slightest” and could not stop laughing after he found out Ms Vize was having sex with another man less than two weeks before she died.

The 27-year-old said he had wanted to break up with Ms Vize but “didn’t know how to reject her in such a way that she wouldn’t feel rejected” and her infidelity provided him with an “excuse” to do so.

“It was such a relief after all this time that I were able to break from a truly dysfunctional relationship and she had the opportunity to go and spend some time with another person,” Mr Quinn said.

Ms Vize mother and best friend have previously given evidence that Mr Quinn was obsessive towards Ms Vize, turning up at her house uninvited, telephoning her at all hours of the day, monitoring her mobile phone messages and Facebook page and threatening self harm if she left him.

But Mr Quinn painted a different portrait of their nearly three-year relationship, saying he struggled to find time to pursue his own interests and studies because of Ms Vize’s demands on him.

He said he had never monitored her online activities or mobile, and it was she who had previously “begged” him not to leave her.

“I would say I was never possessive of her. I never tried to stop her from doing anything she wanted to do. I only ever tried to facilitate it,” Mr Quinn said.

The court heard Mr Quinn tried to contact Mz Vize dozens of times in the days following their break-up, including calling her 41 times within a 12-hour period.

“To be objective, it would probably seem obsessive,” Mr Quinn said.

Mr Quinn has been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder and said some of the calls were part of a “morning and nightly ritual” that had replaced other repetitive behaviours.

On an occasion when he tried to contact her 21 times in eight hours, Mr Quinn said he had only wanted to speak to her about his sick grandfather.

“She’s the love of my life. She’s the only person who can ease any pain that’s in my head,” Mr Quinn said.

Forensic psychiatrists for both the Crown and defence have offered conflicting opinions on whether Mr Quinn would have been in control of his actions when Ms Vize was killed.

Mr Quinn told them that he had planned to kill himself, and Ms Vize was stabbed when she tried to wrest the knife from him.

Mr Quinn is due to continue giving evidence on Monday.

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After coal seam gas Gloucester braces for another battle, this time against coal

Residents (from left) Dimity Bowden, Bruce Gilbert, Helen Evans, Mick O’Brien and Denise Gilbert at the Gilbert’s home which overlooks the proposed Rocky Hill coal mine. Photo: Liam Driver Anti-mine signs on the side of a shed beside the road into Gloucester. Photo: Peter Hannam

Site of the planned open-cut coal mine near Gloucester. Photo: Peter Hannam

Former Gloucester mayor John Rosenbaum (right) with John Watts of Groundswell Gloucester near the proposed mine site. Photo: Peter Hannam

When Denise Gilbert joined anti-coal seam gas opponents at the “meeting place” near Gloucester’s art gallery last February to celebrate AGL’s sudden withdrawal from the industry, she found herself feeling surprisingly flat.

Ms Gilbert’s group, Groundswell Gloucester, had seen off the energy giant and its plan to pock-mark the bucolic valley on the mid-north coast of NSW with hundreds of CSG wells connected to a lattice of pipelines.

Instead, “I was devoid of emotion,” the resident of the satellite estate of Forbesdale said this week. “You just feel you’re fighting, fighting, fighting – and we’re all just a bit worn out.”

Ms Gilbert also feared it wouldn’t be long before a dormant proposal to mine for coal near the town would surface.

And sure enough, low-profile US-based AMCI – a privately-held mining group run by German Hans Mende – this week released its amended environmental impact statement for a mine that would encroach within about 900 metres of Forbesdale and a couple of kilometres of Gloucester.

“The coal mine was always the biggest source of concern for us,” Ms Gilbert said of her family. “We could live overlooking a CSG field but there’s no way we could live with an open-cut coal mine.”

Jeff Kyte, a retired hydrologist who exposed holes in AGL’s CSG groundwater models, takes no joy in having to take on another miner.

“Those few months in between were amazing,” he said. “We just can’t believe we have to go through this horrible process again.”

The resistance includes reopening the “war room” in the home of former Gloucester mayor and Groundswell chairwoman Julie Lyford, to compose yet another submission, this time against the proposed Rocky Hill mine.

Brian Clifford, chief operating officer of AMCI’s local subsidiary Gloucester Resources Ltd, said the modified proposal would see coking coal trucked to Yancoal’s Stratford mine to the south. Night-time operations would be avoided.

“We have made important changes to the project to reduce impacts while bringing much needed jobs for some 20 years and local community infrastructure to Gloucester,” he said.

The Rocky Hill mine would produce 21 million tonnes of coking coal over its 16-year life, with no more than 2 million tonnes in its peak year.

The company would pay $63 million in royalties and $60 million in federal taxes, in current dollars, and aims to recruit locals for 75 per cent of its jobs by the third year.

Stewart Carruthers, president of Gloucester’s Chamber of Commerce, said business is quiet and the town could do with more jobs and industry.

“The trouble is, it’s so close to the town,” he said, noting the region’s predominant southerly winds would dump the dust on residents.

Others worry that GRL’s other licences (see EL 6523 in GRL’s map below), could see the pit abut the town itself.

Mr Carruthers, a nephew of Jimmy Carruthers – Australia’s bantamweight world champion boxer from the 1950s – said CSG divided Gloucester and there’s no appetite to go back in the ring against coal.

“The town is just starting to recover,” he said. “Now we’ve walked into another firestorm.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Planning said other changes made since the mine’s first EIA three years ago included the reduction of three open-cut puts instead of four, and the proposal to have no evening hours of work during the project’s first three years.

“All applications are assessed under strict NSW government rules and policies,” she said. “Social and environmental factors are considered equally alongside economic factors.”

John Rosenbaum, a former mayor of Gloucester, said the expected dust, noise from blasts, night lights, and heavy traffic from the mine were severe enough for the council to unanimously oppose it in 2012.

“The impact will be far greater than the benefit it would bring to the community,” said Mr Rosenbaum, who was mayor until May when the government’s forced council amalgamation summarily stripped him of the role.

Local opposition to the mine was more than 80 per cent according to early surveys and public meetings drew crowds of as many as 1000, he said.

“Whether the town is so supportive [of resistance to the mine] after the AGL debacle is hard to say,” he said.

With the EIS under public exhibition and a verdict by the Planning Assessment Commission not due for at least a year, the town’s state of limbo is far from over.

Ms Gilbert said she and her Forbesdale neighbours have seen their property values slide over the last six years amid the uncertainty cast by the CSG project and now the mine.

“We’ve got people who are going to die here while they wait to find out whether the mine will go ahead.”

Follow Peter Hannam on Twitter and Facebook.

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Mums & Co brings mumpreneurs together

Florist Sarah Edwards spends “precious” time with children, Abigail, 3, and William, five months, by running her business from home. Photo: Janie BarrettDawn is still hours away when Sarah Edwards wakes to feed her baby.

Instead of going back to bed, the florist goes to work. Sometimes she takes five-month-old William with her to the flower market in Flemington, arriving at 5am. She arranges bouquets at home in Camperdown or in her parents’ garage before making deliveries to customers.

Ms Edwards used to be a primary school teacher. She started her business, Flowerboss, in 2014, when her daughter Abigail was one.

Running her business from home “works well for our family”, she said. “It’s keeping my brain stimulated, allowing me to work but also be with the kids. I think these years are really precious with kids; you don’t get them back again.”

It’s five years since the word “mumpreneur” entered English dictionaries. While mothers are often pushed into self-employment by the lack of childcare options or workplace flexibility, others are choosing to launch their own businesses as a way to balance work with caring for a young family.

The number of female business operators has risen 46 per cent over the past 20 years. Mothers of young children are up to three times more likely to be self-employed than other working women, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Australian Institute of Family Studies shows.

Female business operators are more likely to have dependent children than anyone else in employment, according to a 2015 ABS report for the Office for Women – 47 per cent of the 668,670 women running small businesses having dependent kids at home.

Carrie Kwan, the entrepreneur behind lifestyle website Daily Addict, knows what it’s like to juggle work and family commitments. As she prepared for the birth of her second child –  he arrived last week, six days after her eldest son’s second birthday – she was also nurturing her “digital baby”, the networking hub Mums & Co.

Ms Kwan, the co-founder, said the online hub was designed to make life easier for women as they expanded their businesses and managed family life. Mothers often took considerable risks when starting their own business without the resources taken for granted in a corporate environment, she said. “They’re drawing on social media networks for support and advice.”

Backed by the insurer IAG, Mums & Co offers support and services such as financial planning, legal advice and emergency childcare, as well as a forum to pool resources and share knowledge and expertise.

“We’re creating a community of like-minded women that are very inspired and able to share their collective wisdom,” Ms Kwan said.

“More women are becoming entrepreneurs because the conditions and the infrastructure are improving in terms of things like access to capital, start-up incubators and accelerators.

“E-commerce has opened up a new flood of ways to do business. But it’s tough to succeed and it can be isolating.”

Ms Edwards agreed. “When you run your own business from home and you’ve got kids, you don’t always have the support or the face-to-face interactions that you would through an office or workplace,” she said.

“In your 20s, everyone would go and have Friday work drinks and chat about the week, make connections. Mums and Co is your equivalent to that online.”

Ms Edwards said the network “is really fantastic because you are establishing that community, you can engage with other people who are doing the same thing.

“On Friday night you trade the heels for your pyjamas and sit with a glass of wine and read about things that will help your business grow.”

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