Sunrise forced to apologise after ‘branding Newstart recipients dole bludgers’

Sunrise presenter Natalie Barr was forced to apology for using the phrase 'dole bludgers' to describe Newstart recipients. Source: Facebook/ Sunrise

Sunrise presenter Natalie Barr has been forced to apologise to Australians after using the phrase “dole-bludgers” in reference to some of those relying on Newstart, in a controversial segment on Wednesday morning.

The journalist came under fire for using the wording while reporting on new data released by the government on Newstart payment suspensions, which revealed 78 per cent of recipients have had their payments suspended at least once in the past two years.

In introducing the story to viewers, Barr said on air: “New figures have been released showing just how many dole bludgers are trying to take advantage of the welfare system… An alarming number of people on Newstart are being penalised.”

The use of the phrase “dole-bludgers” hit a chord with many Australians who took to social media to vent their frustration at the term being used to describe those in the country who are unable to work.

People even began to share their own stories of hardship in dealing with Centrelink with the hashtag #NotADoleBludger trending online.

“I’m a teacher and I teach a lot of kids whose families are doing it tough on Newstart,” one person commented on Facebook. “The school has recently started a breakfast program to ensure that kids at least have one healthy meal a day. Sunrise you should be ashamed of yourselves for reporting this.”

Another added: “This piece vilifying the unemployed, among the most vulnerable people in our community, is utterly obscene. Even the language (dole bludgers) is deliberately purposefully hateful. Absolutely disgusted by this.”

While a third said: “How dare you Sunrise! Stop demonising the poorest of our citizens. The disabled, single parents, people dying for gods sake are all lumped into the Newstart payment whether they can work or not. Just because you are unemployed does not mean you should be punished for it.”

This led to Barr issuing an apology live on air for using the phrase, during the beginning of the Channel 7 program on Thursday morning.

“Now, a word on a story we brought you in yesterday’s news,” she said. “We used the term ‘dole bludgers’ early in the show when referring to those who’ve had their Newstart payments suspended. That may have misled some viewers.

“There are many welfare recipients whose payments are suspended for reasons other than doing the wrong thing. It was a poor choice of words and we are sorry about that.”

The on-air apology followed a post on social media the day prior in which Barr responded to a disgruntled viewer’s complaint about the story.

The social media user hit out at the reporter for the wording used, writing: “I think she’s a perfectly fine journalist. I simply don’t believe three quarters of people on Newstart are ‘dole bludgers’ or that suspending payments or people who are in hospital is evidence of ‘bludging’.

Barr responded to her post on Twitter saying: “You’re right. This was badly phrased and later corrected. I apologise.”

Do you think the term ‘dole bludgers’ should not have been used in the news segment?

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