The low level of the Newstart allowance means that those relying on the payment are increasingly likely to be in poverty, with living standards for those on Newstart not keeping up with average Australians. This is entrenching many in the community in unemployment and more should be to done to lift working age allowances and improve government employment services to ease cost of living pressures on low income households. The rate of Newstart allowance has not been raised in ‘real terms’ since 1994 and because it is indexed to prices growth not wages growth, people on Newstart are increasingly slipping behind national average living standards.
The Newstart level is approx. 40% of the minimum wage, with the low level of the payment, just $39.30 a day for a single person, being a significant barrier to those looking for work, with many struggling to afford rental payments, public transport and clothing for job interviews.
- I support immediately raising the rate by $75 to reflect a ‘catch up increase’ in line with real value, particularly in light of the benefits it will have for regional communities.
- I will support legislation to index all working age payments (Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance, and Parenting Payment) to wages as well as prices in order to keep payments in line with cost of living pressures.
- I will continue to advocate for more flexibility in requirements for job-seekers on Newstart in rural and regional Australia which recognises the specific challenges of looking for work in small communities with smaller job markets. This particularly important in light of trialed changes to Jobactive that moves more services online but presents access challenges for those in areas with poor internet connectivity.
- I will work with all levels of government to promote and advance schemes that extend availability of renewable energy to low income households and to change regulations of public and tenant housing to allow residents easier access to energy-saving upgrades.