News

Joanita Wibowo

"Not a hand out": Scott Morrison refuses to increase Newstart

"Not a hand out": Scott Morrison refuses to increase Newstart

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ruled out increasing Newstart, claiming campaigners including Barnaby Joyce are out of touch with what Australians want.

“I’m not gonna lead people on about this. If you ask me ‘Are we increasing Newstart?’ Well, the answer is ‘No, we are not’,” Morrison told 7NEWS.

“[The public] believe the best form of welfare is a job and they believe that our welfare system should work as much for taxpayers as it does for those who benefit from it.”

Morrison’s comment followed the news that a group of National MPs created their own Newstart model to estimate the economic impact of boosting the unemployment benefit.

On Monday, former Nationals leader and Coalition backbencher Joyce made headlines after he revealed that his struggle of supporting his two families on a $211,000 salary made him understand the difficulties job seekers go through.

Joyce was the latest Coalition member to join Labor, the Greens, the Reserve Bank, welfare and business groups and former prime minister John Howard in advocating for an increase to the payment, which has stood at $40-a-day since 1994.

During Question Time at Parliament House on Wednesday, the PM told the parliament that his government is looking to prevent people from becoming dependent on welfare payments.

“If you want to get people off welfare into work, you have got to make sure your welfare system is supporting people to get onto work,” Morrison said.

“Under this government, we are running a welfare system, which is a hand up ... not out.”

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash also defended the current Newstart system after figures were released showing that 78 per cent of recipients have had their payments suspended at some point over the past year.

“It's all about ensuring that, as an unemployed person, you’re either actively looking for work ... or, alternatively, you’re participating in an activity that will help you into employment,” Cash told 2GB.

The statements from the Morrison government have been accused of resurrecting the “dole bludger” stereotype.

“I hope the minister understands that when you have the kind of findings that she’s released [on Wednesday], it is the system that’s the problem, and the automation has become brutal for people,” said Cassandra Goldie, chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Service.

Labor’s Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness Jason Clare said contrary to the Morrison government’s depiction, Newstart recipients are not “dole bludgers” or “hippies in Nimbin smoking pot”.

He told Sky News, “The government would want you to think that everyone on Newstart is a dole-bludger … The biggest group of people that are on Newstart are people who are 55 to 65, people that have lost their job … and can’t get back into the workforce.”