With the government releasing its mid-year budget this month, during the Labor Party’s national conference, both of the major parties have ideal opportunities to commit to a long-overdue, widely supported piece of reform, writes Cassandra Goldie in The Age.
Newstart, the payment for people looking for paid work, has not been increased in real terms in a quarter of a century.
In that time, the cost of living has gone up dramatically.
Yet most people receiving Newstart or Youth Allowance are forced to live below the poverty line. The single rate of Newstart is $40 a day. While about 40 per cent of people receiving Newstart also receive rent assistance, this is a maximum of $10 a day. By the time people pay rent, most are left with just $17 a day to pay for food, staples, energy bills, and transport, leaving nothing or a mere pittance to stretch over other costs that come up.
Living in poverty makes it incredibly difficult to secure a job, especially as there is only one job available for every eight people looking, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
As a result, people get trapped in poverty – about two-thirds of people on Newstart receive it for 12 months or more.
Over our lifetimes, 70 per cent of us will receive a social security payment or live in a household where someone does.
The government has the means to deliver a surplus, while tackling poverty by raising Newstart. Doing so would stimulate the economy and lead to more job creation.
The Council of Small Business and the Business Council of Australia back an increase to Newstart. So do almost 70 per cent of Australians and the Australian Council of Trade Unions.