The Australian Greens have called on the Government to deliver a much needed $50 per week increase to Newstart Allowance, with yet another Senate Inquiry today recommending the inadequate payment be lifted.
The Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation Committee has today reported on the Social Security Amendment (Supporting More Australians into Work) Bill 2013, which enacts some small changes announced in the May budget, including an $19 per week increase to the income free area and the extension of eligibility criteria for the Pensioner Education Supplement and Pensioner Concession Card for some of those single parents affected by January's cuts to parenting payments.
"The Australian Greens provided additional comments and recommendations to the Inquiry, in recognition of the fact that the Government has failed to grasp the real needs of people trying to survive on Newstart or Youth Allowance," Senator Rachel Siewert said today.
"Our recommendations outline the need for improvements to the support given to jobseekers and single parents on Newstart, including a base rate increase of $50 per week.
"It is significant that yet another Parliamentary Inquiry has recommended that the Government increase Newstart.
"The Government simply cannot continue to ignore the evidence, given that people are clearly under significant pressures and are going without the absolute essentials in their day to day lives as a result.
"Over 500 individuals wrote to the Australian Greens directly about this Bill. Many of those letters expressed concern that the $19 a week increase to the income free threshold was too low to make a real difference and that it was not accompanied by an increase to the base rate of the payment of at least $50 a week.
"Increasing the income free area by $19 per week is the equivalent of just 1 extra hour per week at the causal minimum wage. In order to provide better assistance, the Australian Greens have recommended that the income free threshold for single parents on Newstart be increased to $176.60 per fortnight, plus $24.60 for each additional child. This would provide a stronger earning capacity for single parents and would restore the income free area to that of which applied to parents before they were dumped onto Newstart.
"We are also recommending that Parliament pass my Bills to help jobseekers and single parents on Newstart, which includes a $50 increase for Newstart and Youth Allowance, better indexation of those payments and a a supplementary payment of $40 per week for single parents on Newstart with children under 16.
"The Greens will support the Government's measures in the Senate, because every little bit helps, but this support is not an endorsement of the Government's approach, which remains woefully inadequate.
"Our third recommendation is that all of the changes in the Government's legislation take place three months after receiving Royal Assent, not in 2014 or 2015. People are struggling now, and they need immediate help, not the promise of piecemeal steps in nine months' time.
"Unlike the older parties, the Australian Greens remain committed to continuing to work towards more comprehensive solutions that will lift people out of poverty and into secure, appropriate work," Senator Siewert concluded.
The report is available by clicking here.
Australian Greens recommendations:
The Australian Greens recommend that Senator Siewert's private Senators Bills, Social Security Amendment (Caring for Single Parents) 2013 and Social Security Amendment (Caring for People on Newstart) 2013, be supported by the Parliament to deliver immediate relief to those in receipt of allowances, including single parents.
The Australian Greens recommend that the income free threshold for principal single carers be increased to $176.60 per fortnight, plus $24.60 for each additional child, so as to return single parents to an income test that is similar to the Parenting Payment Single income test.
The Australian Greens recommend that the income free threshold should be indexed from 1 July 2014 and that all other measures be implemented within 3 months of the Bill receiving royal assent.
Senator Siewert's Bills:
The Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Caring for People On Newstart) Bill 2013 amends the Social Security Act 1999 and the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 to provide:
- Increase the maximum single rate of Newstart by $50 per week
- Increase the maximum single rate of Youth Allowance (living away from home) by $50 per week
- Index these payments by the same method as pensions
The Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Caring for Single Parents) Bill 2013 amends the Social Security Act 1991 to provide:
- a $40 a week supplementary payment for single parents receiving Newstart payments; and
- the income test for single parents receiving Newstart to be the same as the income test for single parents receiving Parenting Payment.
The Bill also amends the Fair Work Act 2009 to provide for an enforceable right to request flexible work arrangements for people with caring responsibilities, including single parents.