The Australia Greens said today the first thing the Government needs to do in social security reform is increase Newstart and Youth Allowance.
"I'm deeply concerned that as Government considers changes to our social security system, people are falling deeper and deeper into poverty and disadvantage because payments are so low. These low payments are themselves barriers to employment," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on family and community services said today.
"While the Interim McClure Welfare Review identified the existing gaps between pensions and allowance as an area of concern, the issue is not given the urgency it demands.
"Rather than act on the evidence and increase payments, I am very concerned that the Government will ignore this situation, or that it will ‘address' it by dragging pension payments down even further.
"The Federal Budget ignores the significant shortfalls that exist for people on Newstart and Youth Allowance, despite the overwhelming body of evidence showing that these payments are inadequate and lead to long term disadvantage and poverty.
"The budget seeks to link all pensions to the CPI only, a move that groups including ACOSS has estimated will see the pension lose up to $100 per week in real terms within a decade.
"Linking payments to the CPI only is the chief reason behind the existing payment gap, with pensions increased according to the highest of a number of measures, such as average male weekly earnings, while Newstart is linked only to increases in the CPI. If the Government's attempt to lower indexation is passed by the Senate, the impact on vulnerable people will be significant.
"The Federal Government's consultation process on the welfare review must focus on bringing more equality and fairness into our income support system, and that means increasing payments to ensure people are not exposed to deep and entrenched poverty and disadvantage," Senator Siewert concluded.