The federal government would like those with a job to believe that an unemployed single parent is young, female and not interested in work.
In other words, a bludging teenage mum living on taxpayer-funded welfare.
Robyn Pola doesn't fit the stereotype the government hopes will limit a backlash against its decision to move more than 60,000 single parents from the Parenting Payment to the lower Newstart Allowance from January 1.
Pola, 55, has a 15-year-old son. She has spent the past three years working part-time and in casual jobs so she could study teaching.
Under the new arrangements for single parents with dependent children aged eight or older, the Bendigo mum will receive $60 less a week in government support.
"I know it doesn't sound like a lot, but with all the rising costs and expenses for household expenses, every cent really counts," she told ABC television this week.
The government insists it's all about encouraging single parents, mostly women, to find employment.
Critics say it's all about the government's budget bottom line. The new measure will save nearly $730 million over four years, a godsend for a government still contemplating a return to surplus when parliament approved Labor legislation in late 2012.
More than 63,000 single parents previously eligible for parenting payments will now receive $533 a fortnight from Newstart, a cut of about $130.
A single person with no kids receives $492 fortnightly.
That's about $35 a day, an amount Families Minister Jenny Macklin - who is paid about $850 a day - thinks she could survive on.
Pola puts the figure into a personal perspective.
"When my son wants to borrow DVDs or things like that, I really have to think twice about it and often say no," she says.
"Um, can't go to the pictures. Day trips to Melbourne are out of the question. Other things that, you know, people enjoy."
Forcing tens of thousands of single parents on to Newstart was always going to be a tough sell for Labor, even with the support of the coalition.
More women than men are eligible for the Parenting Payment and there are more women over 50 than men of the same age receiving Newstart.
It's not a look that sits well with the pro-woman image the government wants to portray to the electorate, especially against an opposition led by a leader Labor has branded as a misogynist and sexist.
The government has been under pressure from its own MPs, the Greens, welfare groups and even business to lift the Newstart Allowance.
The National Tax Forum in October 2011 highlighted the low rate of income support payments as a key reason for the growing poverty and hardship across marginalised sectors of the community.
Newstart payments do not increase in real terms over time. They are increased on March 20 and September each year in line with movements in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
The problem for recipients is that the CPI does not adequately reflect the cost of living for low-income earners or the jobless.
The high cost of staples - rent and food - is offset often by cheaper discretionary spending items.
Pensions, on the other hand are indexed twice a year by the greater of the movement in CPI and the Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index.
The combined couple rate is also benchmarked to 41.76 per cent of male total average weekly earnings and the single rate is equivalent to 66.33 per cent of the combined couple rate.
But Newstart is not the only support single parents receive from the government.
A single parent, with two dependent children aged over eight, gets about $1240 a fortnight once the basic rate is topped up with a pharmaceutical allowance ($6.20); Family Tax Benefit A ($395); rental assistance ($141); school kids bonus ($31.50); telephone allowance ($3.88) and; clean energy payments ($18.15).
A single person with no kids receives $618 a fortnight, about $100 less than most welfare groups think they can live on.
Many of them told a Senate inquiry looking at the adequacy of Newstart last year that the rate of payment was inadequate, impeding a recipient's ability to meet their basic costs of living in an acceptable manner.
The Salvation Army said significant inequity had developed between those receiving different forms of income support allowances.
This had resulted in "unacceptable levels of disadvantage and further entrenched individuals and families in poverty".
Community Information and Support Victoria and Good Shepherd Youth and Family Service came to the stark conclusion that Newstart was now so low that it had become a pathway to poverty instead of employment.
Their submission pointed to the costs unemployed people faced when looking for work, concluding that many struggle to meet those costs after paying for essential living costs.
"The costs of job hunting (making phone calls, travelling to and from interviews, and buying suitable interview clothes) are, for some people, simply untenable," they said.
The Business Council of Australia argued that the low payment rate of Newstart had in itself become a barrier to employment.
"Trying to survive on $35 a day is likely to erode the capacity of individuals to present themselves well or maintain their readiness to work," it told the inquiry.
Yet the cross-party committee declined to recommend an increase to Newstart.
Labor senators, in a separate report, "lent" their in-principle support to an increase in the allowance, "noting" that many in the welfare sector advocated an increase of $50 per week.
They also recommended the government review indexing arrangements and commission a comprehensive review.
The Australian Greens recommended the government increase the single rate by $50 a week.
With that in mind, the government unsurprisingly wasn't keen to promote the January 1 switch on New Year's Day.
Instead, Macklin visited the Mercy Hospital in Melbourne to spruik the government's dad and partner parental leave payments.
Journalists, however, were more interested to know about the Parenting Payment switch to Newstart, quizzing Macklin about its adequacy.
Could she live on $35 a day, the minister was asked. Macklin stalled with a history lesson. The question was repeated.
"I could," Macklin said for all, except her own advisers, to hear.
By day's end the government was in damage control, making no reference to the minister's bold admission in an official transcript of her comments to reporters.
It also was spinning a different line.
Homelessness Minister Brendan O'Connor admitted it would be "very difficult" to live on Newstart.
"We know that."
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