Tuesday, 16 April 2024

    Govt increasingly isolated

    The Senate Community Affairs References Committee’s inquiry into the adequacy of Newstart is now under way, with some 70 submissions received, writes Joe Zaba on the ACBC Media Blog.

    The Committee chair, Senator Rachel Siewert, is by any measure one of the most seasoned and consistent advocates for disadvantaged Australians. As formidable a campaigner as she is, her committee is facing an enormous task in convincing the Government to lift the level of Newstart, regardless of the evidence presented.

    The “Raise the Rate” campaign run by the Australian Council of Social Service – and supported by the sector – is seeking a $75 per week lift to the single Newstart rate. Senator Siewert’s party, the Greens, have publicly supported a $75 increase. Labor supports a lift, but is not committing to a specific rate.

    Others supporting an increase to Newstart include the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Local Government Association, the ACTU and the Reserve Bank of Australia. Current and former Liberal and National MPs have also declared support for an increase to Newstart, with the likes of former Prime Minister John Howard and former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce acknowledging that the current rate is too low.

    The Government, however, has been determined to hose down any hope for an increase. And in doing so, it has embarked on a deliberate media strategy that seeks to cast doubt on the need for and legitimacy of a lift to the Newstart rate.

    In March 2019, the Melbourne Institute published its quarterly update Poverty Lines. It shows that a single person on Newstart receives total income of $347.40 per week (inclusive of rental assistance), while the poverty line for this cohort is $529.57 per week – a shortfall of $182 per week.

    Despite the variance in quantum between different analyses, the reality for all to see is that Newstart is patently inadequate.


    Joe Zabar is deputy CEO and director of economic policy at Catholic Social Services Australia.


    Government increasingly isolated in opposing Newstart boost (ACBC Media Blog)


    Catholic Social Services Australia


    Accounting giant KPMG calls for Newstart to increase by $100 a week (The Guardian)