The Australian Council of Social Service today thanked Greens Senator Rachel Siewert for raising awareness of the impossibility of living on the Newstart Allowance payment of just $35 a day by completing a week of trying to survive on the below the poverty line payment.
"What better insight into the true plight of people struggling to make ends meet on this paltry payment than by gaining first-hand experience of what it must be like yourself," said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.
"Perhaps what's needed to finally see a raise in Allowances like Newstart (which hasn't seen a real increase since 1994), is for more of our political leaders to take up the challenge themselves to see how they would fair.
"Senator Siewert notes that her week of living on the Newstart Allowance of $245 a week (about $17 dollars a day once you take out rent), was even more challenging and confronting that she anticipated, and that despite careful budgeting "it has been impossible to pay essential costs, buy food and set money aside for bills or emergencies'.
"This is what groups on the ground have been saying for a very long time. Not only is it condemning nearly 600,000 people into worsening levels of poverty, but it actually makes it harder for them to be in a position to get into paid work.
"There is now widespread acknowledgement among business groups, unions, researches, and right across Australia's community sector that the payment is so low that it is actually a disincentive for people to find employment.
"ACOSS believes that time has come for Newstart and other Allowances to be lifted as the comprehensive Henry Tax Review recommended back in 2010. We simply shouldn't continue to subject people who are already facing major barriers from more fully participating in our society to have to live in poverty.
"Everyone accepts that we need a strong economy to be able to provide the essential social services and infrastructure our community needs, but a Budget surplus should not come at the expense of the most needy.
"Australia can afford the modest increase to Newstart and other Allowances of $50 a week at the upcoming Budget, and our Budget submission (http://acoss.org.au/images/uploads/2012-13_ACOSS_Budget_Priority_Statement_Final.pdf) identifies some of the areas in which the money could be found to fund this. What's needed now is the political will to do the right thing by some of the most disadvantaged groups in our country.
"We commend the action of Senator Siewert for raising public awareness of this important issue and we hope this goes some way to convince federal parliamentarians from all sides of politics that the time has truly come," Dr Goldie said.
Media Enquiries: Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155
ACOSS Campaign and Advocacy Week 16-20 April 2012
New Allowances Factsheet
http://www.acoss.org.au/images/uploads/Newstart Allowance brochure FINAL_March version.pdf
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