For the first time, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has said there “has to be” a boost to the Newstart Allowance, a payment which has not increased in real terms in 25 years.
The Labor leader today told reporters in Sydney that “Newstart is too low,” but could be increased after the party’s long-touted review of the dole payment should they form government at the upcoming election.
“We’re not reviewing it to keep it at such low levels,” Shorten said.
“You’ve got to get it right.”
While not an out-and-out guarantee, it does represent a significant shift towards not only undertaking a review, but acting to bolster the allowance.
The Newstart Allowance, which which currently grants singles $275 a week, has long been criticised by jobseekers unable to live with the payment as their sole form of income.
But it’s not only recipients who believe the payment is insufficient.
Last week, the Australian Council of Social Service CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said a $75-a-week boost to the payment would be the “most effective way to tackle the worst poverty”.
Industry figures have also called for the payment to be boosted. In October last year, Business Council of Australia issued a statement saying “the Newstart allowance for single people in this situation is inadequate.”
Hell, even former Prime Minister John Howard called to end the Newstart freeze to end last year, criticising an element of the 2018-2019 budget handed down by former treasurer and current Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Howard’s former chief of staff, Senator Arthur Sinodinos, also used an appearance on Q&A earlier this month to advocate for a gradual bump to the allowance.
That said, Morrison today rejected an increase to the payment, saying the nation has one of the best “safety nets” possible.
People who use that safety have said otherwise, but we guess that’s a matter for the election.