Senate debates

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Matters of Urgency

Newstart Allowance

6:11 pm

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

Of course the rate of Newstart in this country is criminally low. It hasn't been raised in real terms for over a generation, and that is a generation of Australians who have been deliberately consigned to unnecessary misery and poverty by the neoliberal business model. Let's be really stark about this: there are fewer jobs available in Australia than there are people who need and want jobs. When you take that indisputable fact into account, and when you look at the punitive, deliberately demeaning welfare system that we have set up for unemployed people in this country, it becomes abundantly clear that the hurdles, hoops and barriers that this government puts in place for people just to be able to get income support, at a rate that is nowhere near enough for them to survive to a decent level, are based on ideology, not on a genuine desire to help people.

We often hear from the Liberals that the best form of welfare is a job. Well, no. The best form of welfare is actually a fair and decent welfare system, because the neoliberal business model has delivered us an economy where there are not enough jobs to go around, and that's true. Whether the Liberals like it or not, it's true based just on the unemployment rate. But, once you factor in the underemployment rate, the situation becomes even more dire. This is the result of deliberate policy settings by successive neoliberal governments of the LNP and ALP stripe in this country. It is simple supply and demand. If you have more jobs than there are people who want jobs, then wages are going to go up because companies and governments will be forced to offer increased wages to get people to fill those jobs, and that's not what the neoliberal model demands.

So let's not beat around the bush here. People who don't have jobs are not at fault. It's the policy settings of government that are at fault, and yet it is those people who don't have work—who want work but can't find it, because there aren't enough jobs in our economy and in our society for them—who get punished. It is those people who get treated in such a punitive and unfair way, and it is those people, the people on Newstart, who are condemned by the heartlessness of the neoliberal business model, by the heartlessness of the Liberal-National Party in this place, to live so far below the poverty line that they can barely see it on the horizon. It is a national disgrace, the unemployment rate. It is a national disgrace, the rate of Newstart, and it is based on the corporatist, neoliberal business model that treats corporate profits as more important than human beings. Raise Newstart now. Put in place fairer policy settings that create the jobs that Australians want, and do it now.

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