It’s always a good sign that you’ve executed the Federal Budget with incredible aplomb when you have to make an $80 million dollar backflip less than twelve hours later. Josh Frydenberg – you’ve nailed it, bud!
So. The government’s election year Budget, which was announced last night, included a curious little injection of cash: a one-off payment of $75 called the Energy Assistance Payment, intended to help people make their next power bill payment.
The budget papers indicated the EAP would go to age pensioners, people on the Disability Support Pension, veterans, carers and single parents before July. Not included in that was people on Newstart, which raised eyebrows immediately – because if there’s anyone who needs help making power bill payments, it’s people on Newstart.
Here’s a screenshot:
As you can see, nothing for Newstart recipients.
Now, hours later, that has changed. After some pressure from the media, Frydenberg has completely backflipped, saying the payment will go to Newstart recipients after all, at an overall cost of $80 million.
“That is something the government has taken a decision on,” Frydenberg told ABC Radio National. “There will be other people who will also receive that payment – that is something new.”
Of course, this is a positive for those who receive Newstart.
But the government ignored the pleas of economists and activists and did not offer any increase to the Newstart payment, which has been described as “unnecessarily cruel.”
Newstart recipients are currently given $538.80 per fortnight, while aged pensioners take home $834.40.
Australian Council of Social Services chief executive Cassandra Goldie told The today Show that it was a “travesty” the rate had not been increased.
“It’s a travesty this budget didn’t do anything to lift up the incomes finally of people on Newstart after 25 years.”
The Opposition has not committed to raising the rate either, but Bill Shorten has promised a review.
“Everybody knows it’s inadequate but we want to understand the interaction with the tax system and the other benefits system,” he told ABC News Breakfast.