When it comes to Newstart, our country has reached a tipping point, and, after six years of neglect and inaction, members of the government are starting to realise this. But unfortunately neither the Prime Minister nor the Treasurer seem to be listening.
The member for Monash, Senator Dean Smith, Senator Arthur Sinodinos, former Prime Minister John Howard and even the poor old member for New England have all gone on record saying that the rate of Newstart must be higher. Thirty-nine dollars and 83c a day—at the moment, that's all the government is willing to give people without a job to survive. Even the Business Council of Australia's CEO, Jennifer Westacott, agrees.
One million Australians rely on Newstart. On average, people are on Newstart for three years, and over 358,000 Australians have been on the payment for more than two years. There are over 183,000 people over 55 who are on Newstart. We need to recognise that it is incredibly difficult for many people who have been retrenched to get another job quickly. This is just another sign of the weakness of the economy under this government. And, as the Prime Minister so famously says, if they want to have a go, they should get a go. So we call on the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to do the right thing and give these people the dignity they deserve and the chance to have a go by increasing the Newstart rate. It's time the government increased Newstart.