Got a problem making ends meet on Newstart? Move to Dubbo. There are plenty of jobs there, according to Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.
Just days after YourLifeChoices revealed that there are 183,943 people aged 55 and over receiving Newstart payments, and that the length of time over-55s stay on Newstart is 188 days, Mr McCormack has pushed back on calls from within his party room, and from the Greens, and from the Opposition, and from a host of welfare agencies for a boost to the $40 a day allowance.
The payment is a “stop-gap” measure, he said, while urging unemployed Australians to move to regional towns such as Dubbo, where there are “so many jobs”.
“There are jobs out there in regional Australia, and there are good paying jobs,” Mr McCormack told Sky News.
“And what I think we do need in this country is a more mobile workforce. So, people have to be prepared to move sometimes out of their comfort zone and out of their hometown to the next town to take a job.
“A job, any job, will be better than none at all. And it will be better than living on welfare. And certainly, with Newstart it is that stop-gap. It is that safety measure. It is not supposed to be a living wage as such.”
The Newstart rate for a single without dependents is $555.70 a fortnight – compared with $926.20 including supplements for a single on the Age Pension – and has dropped 40 per cent in real terms in the past 25 years.
On Monday, Greens Senator Rachel Siewert introduced a private member’s bill in the Senate to increase Newstart by $75 a week. Midweek, former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce called for an increase adding that not every unemployed person was able to move to another part of the country.
Opposition social services spokeswoman Linda Burney said: “Barnaby Joyce gets it. Why doesn’t the Deputy Prime Minister?”
Treasury estimates that a $75-a week increase would cost the budget $12.5 billion over four years and $39 billion over a decade.
In other news, the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) has reacted angrily to a Fairfax exclusive that revealed a bipartisan call to increase the Newstart allowance was removed from a parliamentary report at the direction of the Morrison Government on the eve of the federal election.
Fairfax reported that former social services minister Paul Fletcher intervened to have the recommendation removed.
Acting ACOSS chief executive Jacqueline Phillips labelled the intervention “outrageous” and said “a parliamentary inquiry’s recommendations … should be based purely on evidence presented to the inquiry.”
“Rather than trying to avoid the issue, the Government should listen to the clear calls from the community, business sector and economists, for an increase to Newstart, which would reduce poverty, stimulate the economy and create jobs,” she said.
The intensity of the debate has clearly rattled Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said the issue should be debated using “the internal processes available to each of us”.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann claims that most Australians are on Newstart for only a “very short period”.
Senator Siewert disagrees, saying the employment situation in Australia has changed since the benefit first came in, and certainly since Newstart was introduced in 1994.
The Department of Social Services notes that the proportion of Newstart recipients on payments for more than a year has climbed from 69 per cent in 2014 to 73 per cent in 2016 and to 76.5 per cent in 2018.
Dubbo here you come?
Are you holding out hope for an increase in the Newstart allowance? Have you had first-hand experience in trying to find employment as an older Australian? What advice do you have for others in that situation?
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