Calls to raise Newstart rate growing louder

The Australian Catholic Church’s ongoing effort to see Newstart payments raised for the first time in over 20 years appears to be gaining ground.

According to SBS, the adequacy of Newstart and related welfare payments will be examined in a wide-ranging Senate inquiry as calls grow for an increase to the unemployment support payment.

Chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen, said most families were dealing with cost of living pressures but the most vulnerable were now finding it almost impossible to get by.

“The Newstart Allowance has not increased in real terms since 1994,” Bishop Long said. “The common good will not be served unless we ensure the greatest support to those most in need.”

The motion to establish the Upper House inquiry succeeded after the crossbench backed the joint push by Labor and the Greens. The Coalition government opposed the inquiry and continues to resist pressure to increase Newstart which has not risen above inflation since the 1990s.

The inquiry comes after the Greens’ private members bill seeking to increase the rate by $75 a week was rejected in the Senate.

Deputy CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia, Joe Zabar, said the federal government’s recent tax cuts would assist some families under financial pressure, however it did not help those on Newstart.

 “Addressing cost of living pressures is important and tax cuts will help,” Mr Zabar said. “But it's not enough if you are unemployed and forced to survive on an inadequate level of Newstart.”

According to SBS, former Nationals leader, Barnaby Joyce, said last week that Newstart was too low and called for consideration of the extra costs of looking for a job in regional areas to be taken into account.

The Senate committee is due to report its findings in late March next year.

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