Liberal senator Arthur Sinodinos knew he’d cause a little controversy by supporting a hike to the Newstart allowance, which has effectively remained level since 1994. He knew his statement on Q&A would cause articles, like this one, to be written about it. Still, he did it, telling last night’s panel program that he would like to see the Centrelink payment bumped up over time.
In response to a question about his party’s decision not to hike the payment, which offers single, childless jobseekers a maximum of $555.70 a fortnight, Sinodinos imagined himself in the position of a Newstart recipient.
“If I were in the shoes of someone who was unemployed trying to get a job, I would clearly want a higher level of Newstart while I’m looking for a job,” Sinodinos said.
After briefly discussing the compliance measures the government uses to ensure those payments are properly distributed – measures which advocates for the unemployed have roundly criticised as punitive and unfair – Sinodinos said “I think over time it should be higher.
“Of course, that’s probably a slightly radical thing for me to say here, and I’m putting a personal view – I’m not necessarily talking on behalf of the government here.
“But my observation is that this does raise an issue that should be considered at some stage.”
The senator added leaving Newstart as-is is a definite choice, and “over time we have to think about that choice in the context of other choices.”
— QandA (@QandA) April 1, 2019
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is not expected to announce any positive alteration to the Newstart allowance when the 2019-2020 Federal Budget is revealed tonight, despite the payment lagging well behind traditional cost of living metrics and leaving recipients with precious little cash to actually, you know, live on.
Despite Q&A co-panellist Labor MP Amanda Rishworth suggesting her party would review Newstart should it form government at the next election, Labor Senator Penny Wong last week confirmed the party will not officially drive into the next election with a pledge to hike the payment.
Sinodinos’ statement comes after the Coalition oversight of welfare stuff-ups like the robodebt crisis, and continual fears for certain participants in the Work For The Dole scheme – which was initiated when Sinodinos still served as Prime Minister John Howard‘s chief of staff.
Whether Sinodinos’ stance takes root throughout the Liberal Party is yet to be seen.