Budget: some welcome job measures but inadequate income support undermines nation’s effort

8 May 2018

BSL has long advocated for action to deal with stubborn unemployment still hurting too many in our most vulnerable communities. Ongoing investments are essential to building the skills of disadvantaged Australians of working age so they can fully participate in the economic and social life of our prosperous nation.

“Treasurer Scott Morrison is quite correct to note in his speech that the benefits of a strong economy are yet to reach everyone,” said BSL executive director Conny Lenneberg. In this Budget, Ms Lenneberg welcomed additional places for the highly successful Transition to Work program which prepares young people for jobs in their communities. “I am also pleased to see funding for the Brotherhood to establish a Youth Employment Body to help young people to work with new approaches informed by research and, importantly, harnessing employer effort.”

Ms Lenneberg said older Australians were also hit hard by unemployment and new expanded measures would help respond to challenges mature-aged job seekers faced. “But the Brotherhood remains deeply concerned about Australia’s fraying social safety net, which undermines efforts to get people into jobs,” she said. “The very low rate of the Newstart Allowance acts as a barrier to people securing work and fully participating in Australia’s economy.”

Australia’s ‘long-forgotten people’

Newstart recipients “The long-forgotten people of this federal Budget - yet again - are Australians who rely on Newstart to make ends meet,” said Ms Lenneberg. ”After 25 years of economic growth, our country’s unemployment benefit remains far too low.” Ms Lenneberg said increasing Newstart is not just about being fair – it makes good economic sense.

“Newstart is so utterly inadequate – as little as $38.98 a day – that many people on the payment can’t afford to properly conduct their job search. They are struggling to cover the basics of life. The truth is that there are costs involved in looking for work: maintaining a mobile phone, paying for transport and having presentable clothing to attend interviews.“

"Disturbingly, housing costs are so high these days that an increasing number of vulnerable people on Newstart are forced into homelessness. Newstart should enable people to get into work, but the unintended consequences of very low rates are that it presents a huge barrier to employment. How can you properly look for a job when you can't even afford to keep a roof over your head?”

In the lead up to the next federal election, BSL urges all parties to commit to addressing this deep flaw in our social security system. “Fixing Newstart is a moral challenge for our democracy. It is not fair to consign people searching for work to poverty amid such a run of economic prosperity. It is not only welfare groups, but economists and business who are calling for an urgent increase in Newstart. We must share the pie,” Ms Lenneberg said.