Senate debates

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Matters of Urgency

Newstart Allowance

5:54 pm

Photo of Jacqui LambieJacqui Lambie (Tasmania, Jacqui Lambie Network) Share this | Hansard source

There are a million different reasons that Newstart is too low. Of course it's time to raise it—we should have done it years ago. The government says they want people on Newstart to get a job, but when they do the government penalises them. If someone on Newstart works anything more than three hours to try to keep their head above water and the wolf from the door, this government takes half the money they earn. Newstart recipients are being taxed more than millionaires. That sounds incredible, but it's true. A Newstart recipient faces a higher effective marginal tax rate than the Prime Minister. The government says that losing 32c in the dollar is discouraging people from work, but it takes 60c in the dollar from people trying to get a foothold back in the job market. If you're on youth allowance, you can earn over $200 a week without losing any payment. If you're on Newstart, your payment rate is the same, but if you earn over 50 bucks you start losing half your money. The payment for jobseekers penalises work. Let that sink in.

Can't we let them have one shift a week without punishing them for it? You can't keep punching down; you've got to give people a leg-up too. Stop thinking up ways to make the lives of people on Newstart worse and start thinking of solutions and ways to make things better. For some that means going off drugs and into work. You go to these trial sites for the cashless debit card, and people are volunteering to be put on it. They're doing that because they think it's a circuit-breaker. They do it out of hope, and I'm inclined to give them that bit of hope. Some have a problem where they've trained and worked for years in a job that no longer exists. Some of these people have been out of work for so long that, every time they go to an interview and they're asked about the two-year gap in their employment history, they have to say they've been out of work. Every new employer hears that and thinks, 'Well, if nobody else thinks this person is worth hiring, I'm not going to risk it either.'

Those people keep fronting up in their best suit and their biggest smile and they keep getting knocked down. And we tell them: get back up or lose everything. We should be on their side. Let's give them some light. Let's give them some hope. And while we're at it we can actually give them some dignity back. I think that is the best thing this parliament can do. If you do not want to raise the Newstart allowance then, for goodness sake, the simple answer is this, and it won't cost you people anything: give them more hours to work before you start penalising them and taxing them at a higher rate. It's an absolute embarrassment; I'll be honest with you. That's all we're asking here. Give them 10 or 12 hours a week before you start penalising them. A carrot at the end of the stick—that's what it's all about. If you don't put that carrot at the end of the stick, you're going nowhere. It's as simple as that.

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