A week of action across the country has renewed the push for an increase to the federal government’s Newstart and Youth Allowance.
The Raise the Rate Week of Action, which went from 15 to 21 July, encouraged people to meet with local MPs and share why they feel it needs to be lifted.
Newcastle federal MP Sharon Claydon said the issue had gathered momentum throughout the Hunter Region.
“There has been a coalition or alliance of groups in Newcastle and the Lower Hunter now, who are very well-coordinated around trying to get a renewed focus on the need for an increase to the Newstart Allowance,” she told Newcastle Weekly.
“They are people who are enormously respected in our community and play a big role – people like Kelly Hansen from Nova for Women and Children and Brad Webb from Samaritans, as well as younger students who have been involved in other forms of community action over recent weeks.”
The Raise the Rate campaign’s goal is for the Morrison government to lift the single rate of Newstart, Youth Allowance, and other related payments by at least $75 per week.
The rate of Newstart – the main income support while people are unemployed – sits at a maximum of $555.70 for singles with no children, $601.10 for singles with a dependent child or children and singles over 60 after nine continuous months of payment, and $501.70 each for couples.
Newstart has not been increased in real terms since the 1994 Federal Budget.
“There’s no doubt that Newstart is a payment that’s completely inadequate to deal with the purpose for which it was provided and that’s to assist people to find work,” Ms Claydon said.
“I’m hearing increasing stories of people on Newstart – not only can they not afford to pay their rent and power bills, they also don’t have any money to use public transport to get to job interviews, let alone suitable clothing for that.”
Labor had pledged to review the rate of Newstart if elected in May, but subsequently backed away from the promise as a result of the Coalition’s victory.
“We didn’t win, and the question now really is why is the Morrison government refusing to listen to this need?” Ms Claydon said.
Former Nationals leader and New England MP Barnaby Joyce joined calls for a reform last week, suggesting the payment should consider recipients’ geographical locations.
However, prime minister Scott Morrison ruled out any raise beyond the usual six-monthly indexation levels, which last increased it by $2.
He said more than 90% of Newstart recipients were on other form of payments, such as an $8.80 energy supplement per fortnight and a maximum rental assistance of $137.20 a fortnight.
“It’s about getting people into jobs,” Mr Morrison said.
“The latest jobs figures show 20,000 additional full-time jobs.
“That’s good news, great news. More jobs! How good are more jobs?”