Call on parties to commit to Newstart benchmark before September election

14 May 2013

Like many, the Brotherhood of St Laurence had hoped this Budget would begin to address the inadequacy of the Newstart payment rate.

Current levels are insufficient to enable unemployed people relying on these payments to live securely, let alone enable them to properly conduct their job search.

In the lead up to the September 14 election, we call on all parties to outline an adequate benchmark for Newstart and to publicly commit to a schedule for achieving it.

"The present allowance fails to keep job-seekers out of poverty," said Brotherhood Executive Director Tony Nicholson. "We are concerned about the widening gap between Newstart and pensions, which do better at providing a minimum acceptable standard of living."

"Unemployed people include those with low levels of education and limited job experience, single parents, people with disabilities, indigenous people and those who grew up in jobless households. Our research shows these are the very people who have benefitted the least from Australia's enviable economic growth over the past decade.

"We welcome the $300 million allocated in this Budget for measures to help job-seekers in transition to work, but we now call on both parties to pledge a much greater investment to build the capacities of the long-term unemployed.

"This is not a 'cost'; it is an investment in social infrastructure that is as vital as building roads and ports," Mr Nicholson said.
In that spirit, Mr Nicholson congratulated the Gillard Government on the achievement of establishing Disability Care Australia (the National Disability Insurance Scheme). "The $14.3 billion over seven years funded by an increase in the Medicare levy ensures an enduring funding stream, and will assist some of the most disadvantaged Australians."

The Brotherhood of St Laurence also acknowledges the significant $9.8 billion investment put on the table for the nation's schools and urges state and territory governments to follow the lead of NSW and sign up to the new arrangements.

The extension of the Youth Connections program for grassroots organisations to reengage young people in education or training was also most welcome, Mr Nicholson said.