Helen Haines MP is encouraging people in Indi to help her to gather information about the effectiveness of Newstart in supporting them to secure a job.
The $278 weekly allowance for a single person is meant to be a transitional payment for those dealing with difficult times between jobs.
But the Independent Federal Member said there were deep concerns about Newstart’s effectiveness and growing calls to raise the rate by $75 per week.
“It’s clear that I’m not alone in highlighting this as a serious rural and regional problem,” Dr Haines said.
“Nationals’ former leader Barnaby Joyce last week said Newstart could be changed to reflect the higher living costs faced by those of us who live rural and regional Australia.”
Dr Haines said the Business Council of Australia, Australian Council on Social Service and Country Women’s Association also agreed Newstart should be raised and Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe had suggested an increase would help to stimulate the economy.
“Newstart recipients are trying to survive on $39.30 a day – equivalent to 40 per cent of today’s minimum wage,” she said.
“Raising the rate will deliver real help to people trying to find jobs in Indi and other regional electorates.
“Statistics and research tell us this – but it’s recounting lived experience that can be so powerful in driving change.”
Dr Haines said she would welcome contact from anyone using Newstart to tell her about their experiences, of shortcomings and gaps in the program and ways to improve it.
She is also encouraging community organisations like Anglicare and Uniting Care, which support people seeking work, to collaborate and provide information about the challenges faced by Newstart recipients and prospects for change.
“This is a very serious issue for more than 4400 people across our Indi communities and one raised with me time and again during the recent election campaign,” Dr Haines said.
“Statistics show that a higher proportion of working-age people receive Newstart in regional areas (6.6pc) compared with major cities (4.9pc).
“Research shows that raising the rate will have a positive effect.
“It all flows back. People in our communities spend their money locally. Those few extra dollars that should go to Newstart recipients will then be spent in our communities, which in turn support our small businesses and jobs.
“But the current rate of payment is so low that many people wanting jobs in our communities are falling into poverty.”
“If people in Indi communities can share their stories with me about the ways in which Newstart works for them – or doesn’t – then we can work together on building an important case to put to government.”
Dr Haines said those who wished to participate should contact her by:
- email firstname.lastname@example.org
- telephone 03 5721 7077 or 02 6024 6284