Thursday, 4 July 2019
Newstart and Youth Allowance
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) there are approximately 3 million people in Australia living in poverty, including over 700,000 children,
(ii) Australia has no poverty reduction plan and, despite economic growth, poverty levels have remained high,
(iii) Newstart and Youth Allowance have not had an increase in real terms for over 25 years,
(iv) recipients of these income support payments are unable to cover basic living costs such as housing, food, transport, healthcare and utilities,
(v) income inequality and poverty has significant negative effects on individuals' physical and mental wellbeing and society, and
(vi) poverty in early childhood can lead to poorer life outcomes; and
(b) calls on the Federal Government to make it a priority to help address poverty in Australia by raising Newstart and Youth Allowance by $75 a week.
The proportion of Australians receiving working-age income support payments has fallen to its lowest level in 30 years, of 14.3 per cent. Newstart was not designed to be long-term income on an ongoing basis. Everyone who receives Newstart is provided with some form of additional assistance from the welfare system.
Labor thinks Newstart is too low. It's so low that it is preventing people from getting work—they can't afford the clothes, the transport or essentials—and it's so low that it's causing real hardship for many, many Australians. We've been saying that for a long time now. And of course we went to the last election with a clear commitment to review the rate—to have a review to make sure Newstart was adequate to support people into work and keep them out of poverty, just like Labor reviewed the rate of the pension when we were last in government and delivered a significant increase to payments.
But we didn't win the election, and the responsibility for taking action over the next three years rests squarely with government. It's time the Liberals and Nationals stopped demonising people on social security. In the last term of parliament, they tried to cut Newstart by scrapping the energy supplement, and that is the sorry record of this government when it comes to looking after the most vulnerable.
Well, here we go. As I foresaw and mentioned in the chamber earlier today, the government is trotting out the same old tripe: 'It's only a transitional payment.' Forty-four per cent of people on Newstart are on it for longer than two years, 15 percent for longer than five years. That is an old trope you keep using and it is ridiculous. At least come up with new lines for why you're not going to increase Newstart: 'We just don't care, in fact so much so that we're going to give $95 billion to the wealthy people in this country rather than increasing Newstart.' As for the opposition, have some guts! Say, 'We actually need to raise Newstart.' Don't call for a review. Just support an increase in Newstart so people aren't living in poverty.