Australia

Parliamentary inquiry launched into Newstart rate

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The adequacy of Newstart payments will be examined by a Senate inquiry amid growing calls to increase the rate.

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. 

The motion to establish the upper house inquiry succeeded after the crossbench backed the joint push by Labor and the Greens.

Liberal Senator Dean Smith speaks before the vote for the same-sex marriage bill in the Senate chamber at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, November 29, 2017. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Liberal Senator Dean Smith thinks the Newstart payment is too low.
AAP

The government opposed the inquiry as it continues to resist pressure to increase Newstart which has not risen above inflation since 1994. 

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

However, during the debate WA Liberal Senator Dean Smith broke ranks with the government to join the growing chorus of welfare advocates, economists and a former prime minister pushing for an increase. 

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert noted the support from across the chamber. 

“This inquiry will also look into a wide range of issues that interact with Newstart and other income support payments including impacts of the current approach, the changing nature of work, mechanisms that set payments, as well as the role of independent and expert decision-making in setting payments.


 
“It is vital that the Government pay close attention to this inquiry where we will hear from the community on what it is like to survive on Newstart. Their refusal to raise the rate is out of step with community expectations."

Last week, former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce said 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 committee is due to report its findings in late March next year. 

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