IT’S now 24 years since there’s been a real increase in the Newstart allowance. For a single person the allowance is $278 a week. That’s close to $160 a week below the poverty line, and $178 a week below the pension.
My sister was on Newstart a few years ago. She lived in Croydon and was asked to apply for jobs as far afield as Greensborough, places you can’t get to by a single train journey. In her early 60s she was asked to go and apply for a job as a security guard in a shopping centre. It was ridiculous.
Jobs Minister Kelly O’Dwyer did announce policy changes for job seekers this week. The requirement to apply for 20 jobs a month has been replaced by an online job application process. I commend that, but I didn’t hear anything about an increase in the amount of the Newstart allowance.
One of this council’s top advocacy priorities is addressing homelessness and emergency housing, with low income being recognised as a key driver of homelessness.
You can’t live on the Newstart allowance and not be in poverty. When you’re poor, when you’re living in poverty, it’s hard to be making clever decisions about your finances, about your diet, about a whole host of things. It’s oppressive and it’s unfair. In fact these people are being punished for being unemployed.
The Australian Local Government Association has passed a resolution supporting an increase in the Newstart allowance, as has the Business Council of Australia & KPMG. Nineteen other councils have voted to support an increase.
Why is this a council issue? Because these are our people, our neighbours and our friends, people in our community who look to us for leadership, for support to apply pressure where they have not been able to do so effectively.
We know from the state campaign that an election year is the best time to make these pressure points felt. That’s why we should be talking to the major parties on behalf of people in our community who are in poverty whilst on the Newstart Allowance.
The Federal Government’s focus has been on tax cuts for the richest section of our society. The so-called trickle-down effect is a cruel joke. Since 2010 we’ve had increasing concentration of wealth in Australia and the rest of the world. Today half the world’s wealth is in the hands of just eight people. That’s unsustainable in a democratic society.
I’m an old Keynsian economist. We need to bolster the demand side of our economy. This is one of the best ways to do it. We need to put this money in where it will reduce poverty and give the moribund state of our economy a kickstart … any increase in the Newstart allowance will be spent in our local community.
On Wednesday, Bass Coast councillors voted unanimously to support a local petition calling for an increase in the Newstart allowance. The council will write to the major parties before the federal election seeking an election commitment to raise Newstart to a level that will lift people out of poverty. Bass Coast became the 20th council to support an increase