Thursday, 10 May 2018
Pensions and Benefits
That the Senate—
(a) recognises that single rates of unemployment payments are completely inadequate to cover basic living costs;
(b) acknowledges that our social safety net currently fails to protect jobseekers from falling into poverty;
(c) notes that:
(i) the Australian Council of Social Service has called for an increase of $75 a week to allowance payments for single people from 1 January 2019, and
(ii) the 2018-19 Budget did not increase any allowance payments, including Newstart or Youth Allowance; and
(d) urges the Federal Government to increase the single rate of Newstart and Youth Allowance by $75 a week.
Newstart is too low. Labor knows this, but, unlike the Greens, we want to bring about change, not pull stunts. That's why Bill Shorten has committed to a root-and-branch review of Newstart. The truth is that if you want to see an increase to Newstart you've got to change the government.
How do you think the last major increase to social security came about? The Labor government commissioned the Harmer review into the adequacy of the pension. This was a proper policy process that was undertaken. Consultations with key stakeholders were held and it was paid for in the budget. As a result, pensions were increased by $30 a week, the biggest increase in history. One million Australians were lifted out of poverty. It didn't happen because of a stunt in the Senate from a minor party like the Greens; it happened because there was a Labor government in office.
We fully understand that Newstart hasn't seen an increase in real terms for more than 20 years. That's why we've worked so hard in the last two years to protect the energy supplement for vulnerable Australians on Newstart.
Thank you, Madam Deputy President. Look, I just couldn't resist when I heard Senator Chisholm mention the word 'stunt'. The last time I heard a Labor senator use the word stunt when referring to a Greens' proposal was in relation to the royal commission. It was Senator Sam Dastyari who, in justifying a vote against a royal commission, said he wouldn't support it because it was a Greens' stunt. Well, if Senator Chisholm's been paying attention, he'd see right now that we do have a royal commission, and it was in large part thanks to the hard work of the Greens—in fact, my colleague, Senator Whish-Wilson—and some sensible National Party members who recognised that it was time that we had a review into the banking sector. Now, it won't be long before the Labor Party do come on board with the campaign to raise Newstart—something that Senator Siewert has been campaigning on for many, many years. I know many of you are a bit slow on the uptake, but it won't be long before you get there and, when you do, you'll thank the Greens and many other members of the community for leading the charge. (Time expired)