Newstart debate must focus on people, not politics

Adult, alone upset with anxiety, black and white

Economic researchers at the University of Adelaide are urging politicians to address the issue of the Newstart Allowance with maturity, and consider increasing it by as much as $120 per week.

A new report, published by the University’s South Australia Centre for Economic Studies (SACES) recommends an increase to the Newstart Allowance, to help reduce the poverty gap for unemployed people.

SACES Executive Director, Associate Professor Michael O’Neil, says governments should concentrate on giving unemployed people the skills and support they need to gain employment, rather than making them easy targets for political ‘point scoring.’

“Our research is concerned with the increasing rate of poverty for those on Newstart Allowance, as the value has declined since the mid-1990s and the current rate of payment is making it difficult for many to have the required resources to find employment,” he said.

Interestingly, the report also highlights that the majority of the long-term unemployed are actually older Australians. 

“Recent comments in politics illustrate an all-too pervasive notion of the jobseeker as a ‘dole-bludger’, a recipient who is portrayed as a drain on the taxpayer and who is undeserving. This is despite the fact that many unemployed individuals have a long work history, have paid taxes, and often through no fault of their own, find themselves unemployed.”

A recent example of this is the thousands of workers in Australia’s automotive manufacturing industry who lost their jobs when the industry collapsed. 

The Newstart Allowance currently stands at $278 per week, and through comparison of financial and social indicators, the report recommends an increase to between $360 - $400 per week. 

“An increase would be justified on the basis of equity for the recipients and in reducing the poverty gap many Newstart recipients face,” said Associate Professor O’Neil.

“There would appear to be general agreement on the need to raise the Newstart Allowance from a wide range of stakeholders, including from the business community, the welfare sector, academics and researchers, and the wider community.”

“Only the Federal Government stands outside this accord.”

The SACES report has been instrumental in this ongoing public debate, and has been forwarded to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs, which is conducting an inquiry into the adequacy of the Newstart Allowance. 

Tagged in Societal wellbeing, government, welfare