Federal Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos says he believes the rate of unemployment benefits should be raised over time, breaking Government ranks on the eve of the Budget.
- Senator Sinodinos said he would want Newstart to be higher if he were in the shoes of a jobseeker
- The allowance is currently $40 per day for a single unemployed person
- Labor has promised to review Newstart if the party wins the upcoming election
Ahead of the handing down of the Federal Budget, welfare groups and economists have ramped up calls to lift the rate of Newstart, which is currently less than $40 a day for a single unemployed person.
Senator Sinodinos told the ABC’s Q&A program he believed the payment was too low.
“I think over time it should be higher,” he said.
“That’s probably a slightly radical thing for me to say here — and I’m putting a personal view, I’m not necessarily talking on behalf of the Government here — but my observation is that this does raise an issue that should be considered at some stage.
“There is a cost to the Budget, there’s an expense.
“But then again budgets are all about choices.
“And over time we have to think about that choice in the context of our other choices.”
When questioned about why Newstart recipients would not receive the one-off $75 handout the Government promised for pensioners, single parents and those on disability payments to go towards electricity costs, Mr Sinodinos was stumped.
“The short answer is I don’t know why,” he said.
Last year, a Deloitte Access Economics report found that lifting the allowance by $75 a week could cost “a bit over $3 billion”, but would help boost the economy.
“What our modelling shows is … if you give a bit over $3 billion to people who spend it, that flows through the economy, you get a bigger economy as a result,” said Deloitte Access economist Chris Richardson, who oversaw the report.
“The direct cost might be a bit over $3 billion a year, but the net cost once you allow for that is actually only $1 billion a year — you go to one third of the total cost.”
ACOSS tweet: “Don’t rush to pass more tax cuts while three million live in poverty – our open letter to the Parliament from community orgs providing services to people on low incomes.”
Labor has pledged to review the allowance if it wins the May federal election.
Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education Amanda Rishworth, who also appeared on the program, told the panel she believed the process should be similar to that of the aged pension review completed last time Labor was in power.
But she stopped short of confirming a policy from the Opposition.
“We have said that we think Newstart is too low,” Ms Rishworth said.
“We have said we want to go through this process, that’s the responsible thing a party of government should do.”
Senator Sinodinos was frank about his personal views, having also spoken about his experience with cancer on the program.
Tweet from ABC Q&A: “How has Arthur Sinodinos’ experience of beating cancer changes his outlook on life and politics?”
He spoke about groups of people caught in a cycle of long-term unemployment, particularly those suffering from substance addiction, who require particularly intensive assistance.
“We’re saying we want to encourage people to get more jobs,” Senator Sinodinos said.
“But … if I were in the shoes of someone who was unemployed trying to get a job, I would clearly want a higher level of Newstart while I’m looking for a job.”