Even John Howard backs increasing Newstart

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A new start for Newstart? John Howard joins the push for a payment lift.

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Former Prime Minister John Howard: the guy who initiated the work for the dole scheme, economic conservative,  is now advocating for an increase in unemployment payments. Not your usual character for this side of the debate.

I was in favour of freezing it when it happened, but I think the freeze is probably too long.

We hear a lot of talk about Newstart – the dole – from politicians, from the press (aka, us) – but there are thousands of people across the country who are actually living it. Elizabeth is a 48-year old single mother of one, living in Sydney. Just after her son turned 18, years of family tax benefits switched to Newstart and she saw her income crumble. She says she’s now struggling to cover the cost of rent, food, bills, even medication. If it weren’t for groups like St Vincent De Paul, she’s not sure where she’d be.

We’re always told we’re bludgers… but what we’re getting isn’t even covering the basics.

As of January 2017, more than 770-thousand Australians received Newstart payments.  For a single person, that equates to about 40-dollars a day. At the same time, cost of living is skyrocketing, and there are hundreds of thousands more unemployed people than there are jobs.

But Tuesday’s budget saw no money allocated to lift payments in ‘real terms’ – i.e, greater than inflation. The government says it’s about motivating people to get back to work, but are they missing the real problem?Charmaine Crowe from the Australia Council for Social Service thinks so: she says the minimum wage is more than two times the rate of Newstart – and that’s a big incentive to get back to work. 

The problem is, there is only one job available for every eight people wanting one.

Elizabeth says she’s focused on getting off Newstart payments, with a goal of finding a job doing what she loves – being out and about in the National Parks.

If the government wants to get it’s company and income tax cuts past the Senate, raising Newstart may be the trade-off.  And with even John Howard and the Business Council of Australia saying it should be higher, is finally time for a new start for new start?