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Local Councils Across Australia Support Raise to Newstart

20 June 2018 at 4:37 pm
Luke Michael
The campaign to raise Newstart has gained further momentum, after delegates from local councils across Australia passed a motion urging the federal government to raise the income support payment.

Luke Michael | 20 June 2018 at 4:37 pm


Local Councils Across Australia Support Raise to Newstart
20 June 2018 at 4:37 pm

The campaign to raise Newstart has gained further momentum, after delegates from local councils across Australia passed a motion urging the federal government to raise the income support payment.

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), which represents every council in Australia, passed a motion to raise the Newstart Allowance at its national conference on Tuesday.

The motion said: “In light of the burden placed on local governments across Australia to respond to the needs and challenges of people living in poverty and homeless, the National General Assembly calls on federal government to raise the Newstart Allowance to the level of the Henderson Poverty Line to increase the wellbeing and life chances of many in our community.”

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has led a campaign to raise the rate of Newstart, which has not increased in real terms in 24 years and sits at roughly $40 a day for a single person with no children.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie congratulated ALGA for recognising the need to raise Newstart, noting that momentum was growing for the federal government to support raising the payment rate.

“Polling shows more than two-thirds of people in Australia want Newstart increased. We have leaders from across the community calling for an immediate increase, including leading charities, the Business Council of Australia, the ACTU, and leading economists. Now the whole of the local government sector supports a motion calling on the federal government to increase Newstart,” Goldie said.

“What more does this government need to convince them that the rate of Newstart is a barrier to employment and training, and that people are struggling to put food on the table, let alone secure paid work?

“We call on the federal government to commit to increasing Newstart, Youth Allowance and related payments as a matter of urgency because everyone should be able to eat three meals a day.”

Pas Forgione, the state coordinator of Anti-Poverty Network SA, told Pro Bono News that support of the motion highlighted that Newstart was not just an issue affecting the federal government.

“Poverty and unemployment are not just federal and state issues, they’re issues for local governments as well because councils often have to deal with people in their community who are struggling to get by,” Forgione said.

“I think this is a brilliant decision by the Australian Local Government Association and I think it’s in step with everything else that’s happening right now with the growing public support across the board for a raise to Newstart.”

The Anti-Poverty Network SA has led the charge to get local governments to support a Newstart increase, and currently 14 local councils across Australia have indicated support for raising the rate.

Forgione said it had been lobbying efforts from unemployed people themselves which had driven burgeoning council support.

“In Adelaide we got the ball rolling about 10 months ago when we started to lobby local councils in South Australia, particularly local councils with higher rates of unemployment, and I think we were pleasantly surprised to see 11 councils representing 600,000 South Australians come on board and pass motions [to raise Newstart],” he said.

“The really exciting thing is seeing this campaign that started in South Australia going national. And I think it’s because of the hard work and cooperation of a lot of different groups.

“And what really made a difference is that unemployed people themselves have shared their stories with their mayors and their councillor and basically said ‘this is what it’s like living on $278 a week’… They have really driven this campaign.”

Forgione said the motion from ALGA was another piece of evidence indicating broad community support for raising Newstart, but admitted the campaign still had a very long way to go.

“We still have a federal government that rather than increasing Newstart, is actually trying to lower Newstart by scrapping the Clean Energy Supplement,” he said.

“As for the Australian Labor Party, they’ve stopped short on a number of occasions from committing to raising Newstart and committed only to reviewing the [payment] rate.

“In 2018, we think that’s just not good enough. They need to make a commitment on this before the federal election.”

While the major parties are yet to commit, the Greens have long supported a raise to Newstart.

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, who has pushed to increase the rate of Newstart by $75 a week, again urged the federal government to support a payment rise in wake of the ALGA motion.

“An increase to the payment would have an immediate positive impact on individual and community wellbeing as well as the local economy which local councils clearly understand, it is a shame that the Turnbull government doesn’t get it,” Siewert said.

“The broad church of local councils, social service organisations and economists who are calling for an increase to Newstart continues to grow.

“I urge the Turnbull government to drop the ideological opposition to an increase so that Australians don’t fall into poverty when they are out of work.”

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

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

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