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Greens “Stunt” to Raise Welfare Payments Rejected

Thursday, 10th May 2018 at 4:33 pm
Luke Michael
A Greens push to increase Newstart and Youth Allowance by $75 a week has been voted down in the Senate, after Labor and the Coalition voted against the motion described by critics as a “stunt”.

Thursday, 10th May 2018
at 4:33 pm
Luke Michael



Greens “Stunt” to Raise Welfare Payments Rejected
Thursday, 10th May 2018 at 4:33 pm

A Greens push to increase Newstart and Youth Allowance by $75 a week has been voted down in the Senate, after Labor and the Coalition voted against the motion described by critics as a “stunt”.

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert put forward a motion to the Senate on Thursday, urging the federal government to increase Newstart and Youth Allowance payments in line with recommendations from the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS). 

But it was voted down 45 to 12, with David Leyonhjelm, Derryn Hinch, Cory Bernardi and One Nation joining the Coalition and Labor in voting against the motion.

Siewert attacked the Labor Party for siding with the government.

“Despite the broad group of economists, business and social service organisations saying that the payment definitely needs to be increased, both major parties are showing cowardice,” Siewert said.

“The rate of Newstart does not need to be ‘reviewed’ it needs to increase urgently, and the ALP knows this.

“It has been well established that it is dangerously low and causing harm to jobseekers. It’s time for [Labor leader] Bill Shorten to come off the fence.”

Shorten said recently that a Labor government would undertake “a root and branch review” of welfare payments to work out what increase is appropriate.

And despite the social sector’s anger at the lack of action on welfare in this week’s federal budget, Labor MP Jim Chalmers indicated on Wednesday that the ALP would not take action on the issue until it was elected into government.

“We’ve said that we believe it’s too low. But we think the best way to come to an appropriate outcome to address this is to do it in the first term of a Labor government,” Chalmers told The Conversation’s politics podcast.

Critics have described Siewert’s motion as a “stunt”.

Prominent writer and social commentator Van Badham said on Twitter the push was a “typical Greens stunt designed merely to attack the Labor Party”.

Van Badham said that the Coalition’s majority in the lower house made the passage of legislation to increase Newstart and Youth Allowance virtually impossible.

“It’s a stunt. And it’s a stunt that’s not about Newstart, or welfare, or the Liberals – but to be used to attack the Labor Party. They do this all the time,” Van Badham said.

“The stunt here is to dare Labor to vote for a bill which is actually quite silly; yes, Newstart should and must be raised – but rather than an arbitrary $75 increase, shouldn’t it be pegged to a proportion of what’s determined as a living wage?”

Labor Senator Anthony Chisholm also described the motion as a “stunt”, and added that the ALP were committed to a “proper policy process”.

But Siewert has denied the motion was a stunt.

Responding to Van Badham’s comments, Siewert told Pro Bono News: “I have been campaigning to increase Newstart for over a decade and will continue to campaign to drive change.”

This motion comes after former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard told a post-budget breakfast on Wednesday that the Newstart rate – which hasn’t increased in real terms since 1994 – was “probably” due for an increase.

“Yeah, I think there is an argument about that, yeah I do,” Howard said.

“I was in favour of freezing it when it happened, but I think the freeze has probably gone on too long.”

But Treasurer Scott Morrison defended the decision to maintain the welfare payment freeze.

“Newstart is not intended to be a payment you live on, it supports you while you get yourself back into work,” Morrison told the National Press Club.

“Our priority is to provide tax relief for working Australians and ensure we create a stronger economy so we can provide those people not in work with the best from welfare which can be provided, which is a job.”

When asked by Siewert during Senate Question Time on Thursday if she could survive on Newstart, Coalition Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells said it was not something she needed to consider.

“I’m actually in a job, so therefore I do not need Newstart,” Fierravanti-Wells said.

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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