Small bonus a good start, but bipartisanship needed to raise Newstart

The Australian Council of Social Service today welcomed the passing of legislation through the Federal Parliament that will provide some support for hundreds of thousands of people living below poverty line incomes, but added that a $50 increase in Allowance payments is urgently needed to reduce poverty in Australia.

“ACOSS welcomed the Income Support Bonus of $210 a year for people living on low paying income support allowances when it was announced in the 2012 Budget. However, this is only a small step. Allowance payments, such as Newstart must be lifted in this year’s Budget,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“People living on Allowances like Newstart are among the most disadvantaged in our country. It is therefore deeply concerning that even a small step to improve their situation was opposed by the Federal Coalition during voting on the Income Support Bonus Bill in parliament last night. Coupled with the announcement by the Leader of the Opposition that the Coalition will remove the tax assistance on superannuation for low income earners, we must ask what the Coalition will do to address poverty in Australia, which continues to rise, if elected?

“All the evidence is in and we simply must find the money to fund a modest increase in the Newstart Allowance. There is no justification for keeping the payment so low. It’s clear that nobody can live on $246 a week with current costs of living. $35 a day is not enough to pay the rent, feed and clothe yourself, and get around to look for a job.

“This has been made all too clear by the overwhelming evidence presented at the recent Senate Inquiry and countless reports from major charities and other community organisations.

“We understand the tight fiscal environment. However, after nearly 20 years of virtually staying frozen in time in real terms, Newstart Allowance should be increased by at least $50 a week as the Government’s own Henry tax panel recommended in 2010.

“We can and should right this wrong at the upcoming Budget. ACOSS has identified billions of dollars that could be saved in the Budget if the Federal Government tackled poorly targeted subsidies and tax concessions and clamps down on tax loopholes such as private trusts.

“Tackling these areas of waste will make room in the Budget for more investment in major social and economic infrastructure that we all want. Things like an NDIS, better education and healthcare and other important services. And for a vital increase in Allowance payments.

“We call on all political parties to ensure the passage through the Senate of the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Income Support Bonus) Bill 2012. And we continue to urge bipartisan support for a much needed increase in Allowance payments in the upcoming Budget,” Dr Goldie said.

Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155

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$35 a day is not enough!