Newstart Works Out To A “Simply Inhumane” $17 A Day After Housing Expenses

How many times do we have to be told Newstart is inhumane before we fix it?

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A new report by the Salvation Army absolutely slams the Newstart payment, showing that the average person on Newstart is left with a totally inadequate $17 a day after they’ve paid housing expenses.

That’s $17 a day for food, phone bills, power bills, transport, clothes — everything that isn’t rent or a mortgage payment. The Salvos described that as “simply inhumane”, and they’re not alone. Everyone from economics experts to John Howard has admitted the Newstart payment is simply too low for someone to live on.

Everyone but the government, that is, who refused to raise Newstart in this year’s budget. They chose instead to announce a tax cut for the very wealthiest people in Australia, because god knows they need it.

The Salvation Army study released today is an annual survey of 1,267 people who rely on the organisation’s help. The survey also showed that 81 percent of respondents who pay rent or a mortgage are spending more than half of their income on housing costs, which puts them under extreme stress.

Housing stress isn’t the only stress, either. The report also showed that more than 2 out of 5 households with kids weren’t able to afford adequate food, and 28 percent of people looking for jobs said the high cost of transport was one of the main barriers stopping them from getting one. Sixty-one percent of respondents regularly skipped meals to survive.

Salvation Army Major Paul Moulds said there was no other way to look at it: the budget absolutely failed the Australians who needed support  most.

“It is simply inhumane that corporations and wealthy households are handed a tax cut, while the most disadvantaged and marginalised people in this country continue to be ignored,” he said.

“It is widely acknowledged it will take a minimum increase of $75 a week just to ensure people can live on the poverty line – let alone above it.”

And how did Newstart come to be so far below the poverty line? It’s never been terribly high, but in 1994 the Government decided to stop increasing it in line with inflation, so it’s stayed at the same level while living costs have skyrocketed around it.

So while the Salvation Army is calling on people to address the problem by donating to its Red Shield Appeal, its also worth calling your MPs and telling them to pull their finger out. Everyone agrees that Newstart is too low, and it’s well past time to do something about it.

You can read the full Salvation Army report here.