The national peak body for the community and social services sector, ACOSS, applauds the action of Senator Rachel Siewert to live on $17 a day for a week to try and get a feel for the true plight of people living in poverty on the low paying Newstart Allowance.
“It’s a great thing to see a federal politician so concerned about an issue as to take such a step. If Senator Siewert didn’t understand how tough it is to try and exist on so little, she sure will by the end of the week,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.
“ACOSS has been saying for a long time that the current rate of Newstart (base rate $245 per week) is simply not enough, and is significantly below the poverty line.
“There is now widespread support, not only across Australia’s community sector, but also business, union, researchers, and other community leaders that Allowances like Newstart must be lifted.
“We shouldn’t condemn people who are already facing major barriers from more fully participating in our society through paid work by subjecting them to poverty.
“The low payments are actually a disincentive for people to get into paid work. As Business Council of Australia head Jennifer Westacott said, “people have to be able to stay in close proximity to returning to the workforce … they need to be in good health, have decent clothes, be able to get transport to go to interviews and to have their confidence intact.”
“ACOSS is calling on the Commonwealth Government to increase Newstart and other Allowances by $50 a week at the upcoming Budget. This is a modest increase that was recommended by the Henry review and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
“This and other important initiatives, like the National Disability Insurance Scheme and universal dental health-care, can be afforded whilst at the same time bringing the Budget back into surplus,” (see ACOSS Budget submission).
“ACOSS accepts that our economy needs to be strong to enable us to provide the social services and infrastructure our community needs, including ensuring as far as possible a budget surplus. However, we will not accept that our wealthy nation should allow people to fall deeper into poverty in that quest.
“We commend Senator Rachel Siewert for taking up this challenge. If more political leaders did this maybe then we’d see action on this front,” Dr Goldie concluded.
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