$50 per week needed for Newstart, not piecemeal commitments

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The Australian Greens said today that efforts to increase the income free area of Newstart Allowance represented a piecemeal approach to reforms that would not help long term unemployed people facing multiple barriers to employment.

Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on families and community services said today the Government is trying to mitigate the electoral damage caused as a result of parenting payment cuts and ongoing inaction on payments like Newstart.

“Increasing the income-free area would provide a bit of help for some people on Newstart, but would not return the money single parents lost by being transferred off Parenting Payment. This measure is one which allows the Government to be seen to be doing something, without making real changes,” Senator Siewert said today.

“The Government are no doubt receiving loud and clear signals from the community about their disgraceful approach to single parents and other vulnerable people.

“Significantly more needs to be done to help people out of poverty but this approach would fall fundamentally short of the substantive reforms that are needed.

“With over 60% of people on Newstart for more than 12 months, increasing the income free area alone will not address many of the issues they face.

“Issues such as age discrimination, the needs of people with children, caring responsibilities or disabilities, along with the effects of grinding poverty over a period of months or years make it substantially harder to find work.

“This measure will only provide limited financial benefit through earned income and a lesser rate of payment reduction, it does not provide the support needed to ensure that people aren’t left to survive so far below the poverty line. It falls well short of the income boost that will be provided by my Private Member's Bill to increase Newstart by $50 per week.

“The Greens will act to further increase assistance for single parents on Newstart, would be provided with a $40 per week supplement payment under legislation which I will introduce during the next sitting of Parliament.

“The many groups and organisations campaigning for change will be disappointed if the Labor Party fails to significantly increase Newstart in the May budget. It would be a great disappointment if they instead opt for a narrow approach which focuses only on something like the income free area, without addressing the real needs of people struggling so far below the poverty line,” Senator Siewert concluded.