Senator-elect Jacqui Lambie has revealed how she was broke, unemployed and survived off Vegemite toast and as little as $150-a-week for a year after she left Parliament.
In an extraordinary political comeback, she was re-elected by Tasmanians at last weekend’s election and will now earn $200,000-a-year for her six-year term.
Ms Lambie told The New Daily that figure is nearly ten times the amount she has lived off for the last 12 months, as she tried to pay for groceries and home repayments of $1000 a month from earnings of just $20,000.
She now plans to devote $1500 a month of her salary to putting a stranger through the drug rehabilitation that helped her son who struggled with ice addiction.
— ABC Hobart (@abchobart) May 18, 2019
“I just had to do it. No new clothes. No make up. I just did it. I had friends who cut their own meat, and (have) veggie gardens. They were giving back,” she said.
“You just do it. I was not prepared to go back on the dole queue.
“I don’t run around in Armani, sweetie.”
The outspoken politician was dumped from Parliament at the end of 2017 after she dobbed herself in as dual citizen.
“There was no pay out. Because we were imposters. It was just walk out and you’re finished,” she said.
Ms Lambie was ahead in her house repayments when she was dumped from Parliament. She bought the modest property in Tasmania from her earnings as a senator.
But eventually, by last year, she was two months behind in her home mortgage repayments as she resisted going to Centrelink to collect the dole. Ms Lambie spent many years on welfare as a single mother after leaving the armed forces and fighting for a payout.
“No. It was not an option for me. I just didn’t want to. I would rather starve than go back on unemployment benefits,” she said.
“The winter period last year was very difficult – there was no work for me at all. I just thought well, if I lose out, I would have to sell up.”
Ms Lambie said she agreed to participate in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here purely to fund her Senate campaign and promptly spent her earnings on advertising and corflutes (signs).
This is one of the bravest things we've ever seen on #ImACelebrityAU. Jacqui Lambie you absolute legend 🙌
Posted by I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here Australia on Sunday, January 27, 2019
This was “enough to pay $35,000 worth of ads and $10,000 in corflutes” she said.
“I was living on Vegemite toast,” she said.
“I even fell two months behind in house payments last year. I had a little bit of income from speaking gigs. I was just doing bits of TV. I had the Sunday night thing with 7. That paid me a little. I went to Syria (for SBS show Go Back to Where You Came From).
“Between doing that and a little of speaking spots it was about $20,000 from January to December.
“I had about $10,000 in the bank. I was a bit lucky I was up on my house payments.”
Ms Lambie said she was proud of her adult son, Dylan, who beat his drug addiction and completed rehab.
“That was four years ago now. He’s holding down a good job and all the rest. He gets tested where he is for drugs,” she said.
“I just like to give back. My son spent 18 months in long-term rehab and now I want to sponsor someone again.
“It’s long-term rehab – $1500 a month. Soon as I get paid, I was talking to them yesterday, I will sponsor someone again.”
Ms Lambie, who once told Australia she was looking for a man with a “big package”, said there was no romance on the horizon.
“Mate, I was broke, I was unemployed, I don’t think that’s very attractive to blokes,” she said.
“It’s been a while now. It’s been about 15 years.”