Australia’s welfare lobby has ramped up pressure on Labor over Newstart payments ahead of the party’s national conference.
The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) is urging Labor to not pass a bill that aims to establish a social security commission and would “impose and extend social security waiting periods for up to four years for recent migrants”.
“The government’s proposed cuts have absolutely no basis in policy terms. They are divisive, and breach government’s obligation to provide basic social protections. We urge you to split the bill so that these schedules do not go through parliament,” it said.
An independent body would be created to assess the rate of Newstart and other social welfare payments. ACOSS has long been calling for an increase of Newstart payments as they have not gone up in “real terms” for 24 years.
Labor is reviewing social security payments ahead of its conference, but Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has already acknowledged the rate is too low.
ACOSS Chief Executive Cassandra Goldie said: “I urge every member of the ALP to be thinking to themselves ‘am I going to do the right thing’. Are we prepared to wait another year, potentially another two years, to tackle serious inequality?”
South Australia Senator, Tim Storer, will introduce the social security commission bill to the Senate after independent MP Cathy McGowan brought it to the lower house.
“The commission would undertake reviews at least every four years of social security payments,” Storer told reporters.
A study into welfare payments from accounting giant Deloitte, commissioned by ACOSS, found lifting allowances by $75 per week would lead to a boost for the Australian economy and to regional communities.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in November that he would prefer to raise the aged pension rate before Newstart allowances.