It was a mistake to move single parents on to dole: Carr

The decision to move thousands of single mothers onto the Newstart allowance, reducing their incomes, was a mistake that compromised Labor values, according to Rudd supporter and Labor senator Kim Carr.

Senator Carr is the latest Rudd supporter to publicly criticise a government decision after last month's failed leadership spill.

As Human Services Minister at the time, Senator Carr was forced to sell a policy he now reveals he was deeply uncomfortable with.

Senator Carr told Fairfax Media on Thursday that Labor needed to ''learn the lessons from the experience in England where the Tories are attempting to smash the welfare state''. He said the Coalition would do the same in Australia and that it was up to Labor to protect the most vulnerable.

''There is a real difference between never getting a payment and losing it. That difference is particularly real for families on low incomes,'' he wrote in an opinion piece for a News Ltd paper.

The Department of Human Services was given ''no time to communicate the change''.

Single parents lost their parenting payments when their youngest child turned eight, while partnered parents lose it when their youngest turns six, effectively shaving $100 from their weekly income.

When the dole changes took effect in January, Families Minister Jenny Macklin ignited a debate over their fairness when she told journalists she could live on the Newstart allowance of about $35-a-day. She later apologised for the "insensitive" remark.

A Labor senator with extensive experience in the welfare sector has backed Kim Carr's comments.Queensland Senator Claire Moore spent 14 years working in the old department of social security before her political career.

Says she ''absolutely'' understands the anger of parents forced onto the less generous Newstart allowance.

"All you've got to do is talk to people who work in the area who daily deal with people who are struggling to live on a welfare payment,'' Senator Moore said.

"The Newstart payment, the single parent payment - all those that come under the heading of benefit - just are not keeping pace with the cost of living and the expenses in our community and that's right across Australia."

Senator Moore says she also agrees with Kim Carr's push to have the Human Services Minister included in federal cabinet.

Senator Carr's policy criticism comes a day after another Rudd supporter, Ed Husic, publicly criticised the Gillard government's decision to spend more than $20 million funding the Disney film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Mr Husic, whose western Sydney seat is under threat in an election year, said the money could be better spent on more urgent needs such as an MRI machine in the Mount Druitt Hospital.

Labor's most contentious policy issue at the moment – expected changes to superannuation, particularly increasing taxes on high earners – has been fanned by criticisms from two other Rudd supporters, Simon Crean and Martin Ferguson. Both sacrificed their positions in cabinet during the leadership spill.

Mr Crean warned Ms Gillard that increasing taxes on superannuation could trash the Hawke-Keating legacy and Mr Ferguson, the former resources minister, urged Treasurer Wayne Swan and Ms Gillard to end their ''class war rhetoric''.

Other Labor MPs have removed or reduced party branding from their communications material five months out from the election.

Chris Bowen, another Rudd supporter who resigned from cabinet, has been campaigning in his western Sydney electorate of McMahon holding a bright orange sign without even a Labor Party logo – simply saying ''Chris Bowen, local leadership''.

Mr Bowen's website is coloured the same orange as the local AFL team the Greater Western Sydney Giants, and his homepage bares only the tiniest thumbnail of a Labor Party logo, which is dwarfed by a team logo for the Giants.

Education Minister Peter Garrett, who supports Ms Gillard, avoided Labor Party branding in a flyer distributed to his constituents. Mr Garrett denied to News Limited that he was trying to disassociate himself from the Labor brand.

with Tim Lester

Former Labor minister Kim Carr. Picture: ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

Former Labor minister Kim Carr. Picture: ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN


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