Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie has described what it's like to live on welfare while raising children, slamming the federal government's cuts to family tax benefits during a late night parliamentary session.
Lambie, who was medically discharged from the army in 2000, told the Senate about her seven years living on the disability support pension as a single mother in Tasmania.
In her emotional speech Lambie said she was often unable to afford food for her children, or footy boots for her son.
She said there were times she drove illegally because she couldn't afford to register her car or renew her licence.
The senator ended her speech by savaging those voting for the cuts, saying they'd never know "how bloody tough it is". Living on welfare was like being on "the bottom of the crap pile through no fault of our own," she said.
This is what it is like, it is not a choice for many of us to be on welfare. It is shameful and it is embarrassing and it is bloody tough. But we do it not because we want to, but because circumstances put us there. For you to take more money off those people, you have no idea how bloody tough it is. Every little cent counts to those people. What you are doing is shameful. If you really realise the damage that you are continually doing to that part of society, you’d stop doing it. I am just asking you, I know you haven’t been through that but there are some of us in here that have and it was difficult during our lives and we’ve paid the price for that through no fault of our own. I just wish you’d reconsider what you’re doing because you know, we’re not living when we’re like that, we’re surviving, we’re in a bloody war zone and we’re surviving. That’s all we are doing, each day we are surviving. We are surviving to put bread on the table. We are surviving to make sure our kids can get the basics in life. We are trying to make sure our kids are better, so our kids can go to decent schools if we want that choice. I was really lucky in some areas and I thank St Brendan-Shaw College who allowed me to, when I got in very difficult situations for three years, to not pay school fees for my children. But they let them stay there. So I want you to know that’s what it’s like to be at the bottom of the crap pile through no fault of our own.
Family tax benefits help families with the cost of raising children. Despite Lambie's vote against the bills, which freeze the rate of family tax benefits for 24 months, the legislation passed the Senate on Wednesday. Labor says families stand to lose hundreds of dollars because of the cuts.
Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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