This week is both Anti-Poverty Week and Get Online Week in Australia, so it’s a good time to ask how anyone can get by spending just $12 a week on telecommunications.
There’s no doubt telecommunications are essential in an age where government services, businesses, employment and education are all online, and much of our contact with friends and family rely on social media and digital communications. Recent SACOSS research shows that the average SA household spends $46 on telecommunications each week, equivalent to 3.2% of their disposable income. That was more than was spent by the average household on energy.
However, for a single person looking for work and reliant on the Newstart allowance, 3.2% of income amounts to just $12 per week. That may get a bottom-end mobile phone plan with very little call value and almost no data, or a home connection but no mobile. Yet the government’s “digital first” strategy insists job-seekers go online to deal with Centrelink and access payments. And employers and job agencies require them to have a phone to be contacted.