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Charities hit out at benefit cuts

Centrelink

VinniesA coalition of Australia’s biggest charities is calling on the Turnbull government and Labor to abandon plans to cut the income of people living below the poverty line on the dole, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

In what is described as a rare intervention into politics, the heads of St Vincent de Paul Society, Mission Australia, Catholic Social Services, Anglicare and the Salvation Army have combined to call out the “injustice” of removing the energy supplement on benefit payments to new recipients.

The change, contained in the government’s $6 billion omnibus savings bill in front of Parliament, will cut the Newstart Allowance by about $5 a week for new recipients and lower the rate of pensions and family payments accessed by a total of 2.2 million people, if it becomes law.

At just $38 a day, Newstart equates to 39 per cent of the minimum wage and is the second lowest unemployment benefit among OECD countries on a comparative basis.

Charities will unite in a press conference on Sunday to highlight the “unfairness” of the government removing the energy supplement, which was introduced as part of the carbon tax compensation package in 2011, while at the same time pushing ahead with nearly $10 billion in personal and company tax cuts promised by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during the election campaign.

John Falzon, chief executive of St Vincent de Paul, said: “It’s the height of injustice and unfairness to take away from these people who have the least while seeking to give tax cuts to those who have the most.

“It’s deeply divisive and benefits those who are already well off. It’s time both sides of politics unite to ensure those left out of the job market are not pushed further below the poverty line.”

Mission Australia chief executive Catherine Yeomans compared the controversial picture of Mr Turnbull handing $5 to a homeless man to the reality of Mr Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison taking $5 a week from people joining the almost 800,000 Australians on Newstart.

“I think most Australians probably assume there is a reasonable social security safety but the reality is there is not. There should be community outrage at taking from the poorest people like this,” she said.

KPMG recently urged the government to raise the dole by $50 a week and the Business Council of Australia has said Newstart “no longer meets a reasonable community standard of adequacy”.

FULL STORY: Charities combine to fight government plans to abolish $5-a-week dole supplement

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