UNLIKE the Age Pension, Newstart can only be indexed according to the Consumer Price Index, which indicates the rate of inflation. The Australian Government always points at this indexation mechanism as proof of the adequacy of Newstart.
However accounting firm KPMG has said that if Newstart had only been adjusted for inflation since the start of the dole in 1969 it would have been $180 a fortnight now instead of $559.
KPMG’s point was that the dole has been increased beyond the rate of inflation a few times and that it is high time it happened again.
KPMG, not exactly an outfit with extreme or even moderate left-wing leanings, called for a $100 a week increase, more than the $75 advocacy groups such as the Australian Council Of Social Service have been campaigning for. KPMG argued that Newstart is too low for recipients to eat healthy, keep a roof over their heads, maintain clothes for interviews and afford travel costs to Centrelink appointments.
Also, the low rate of Newstart has become a threat to the health and wellbeing of recipients. In a submission to the Newstart Senate inquiry the Consumers Health Forum (CHF) has stated that there is a “disturbing level” of untreated sickness experienced by Newstart recipients. CHF also has said that there is a link between unemployment and mental health issues and that there would be 500,000 less Australians with chronic illness if the health inequality gap was closed.
While advocacy and health groups, charities and even large multinational corporations are calling for an increase to Newstart, the Social Services Minister was quoted as saying, “Giving [Newstart recipients] more money would do absolutely nothing … probably all it would do is give drug dealers more money and give pubs more money.”
The Minister later backtracked by saying her comments were taken out of context and that the Government is focused on coming up with more inventive ways to deal with the barriers to employment that Newstart recipients face.
Before the Minister made her derogatory comments, the Australian Government had announced it would introduce compulsory drug and alcohol testing.
There are approximately 180,000 people-over-55 on Newstart.
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