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Thursday, 1 August 2019
Page: 1830

Newstart Allowance

Dr HAINES (Indi) (14:24): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Families and Social Services. The Newstart allowance, paid to more than 4,400 people in Indi, is indexed to the CPI with inflation now 1.6 per cent. Since 2000, the cost of essential goods and services has increased far greater than CPI. I, like many in this place, including a growing number from those on the government side, support an increase to the Newstart allowance. When will the government increase the Newstart allowance, and will the government consider using a fairer index for future payments that better reflects the cost of essential goods and services?

Mr FLETCHER (BradfieldMinister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts) (14:25): I do thank the member for Indi for her question and I congratulate her on completing her first speech. The government has a very clear and consistent position when it comes to Newstart. The purpose of Newstart is to assist people to get into or return to the workforce, and our focus is on helping people move from welfare into work. The best form of welfare is a job. Of course, we are very focused on generating an increase in jobs. Indeed, since we came to government in 2013, we've generated more than $1.3 million new jobs. As at June 2018, there were 230,000 fewer Australians of working age on income support payments than in June 2014. The proportion of Australians of working age on income support payments has fallen to its lowest level in 30 years, at 14.3 per cent.

Every Australian who moves from welfare into work achieves a personal victory. They achieve a victory in terms of a sense of contribution and self-esteem and, of course, an improvement in their financial position. So what we are determined to do is to support Australians on Newstart in making that transition from welfare to work. We're doing that by driving growth in the economy and generating jobs. And we're doing it also with targeted assistance to people who are on welfare, through schemes like PaTH—the Youth Jobs PaTH program, prepare, trial and hire. We're spending almost $800 million over four years—

The SPEAKER: The minister will just resume his seat. The member for Indi, on a point of order.

Dr Haines: Relevance: I asked in relation to the rate of CPI.

The SPEAKER: Yes, and I'll just point out to the member for Indi, as I pointed out to crossbenchers previously, that certainly was part of the question. There was one question but there were many other statements. Although it didn't take up the full 45 seconds, it took up nearly all of the time, and, for that reason, the minister is in order. In other words, CPI wasn't the only thing the member spoke about.

Mr FLETCHER: The PaTH program is one of a number of targeted ways in which we're assisting and supporting Australians to move from welfare into work. Nearly $800 million has been committed to that over four years, and, to date, some 47,000, or 63 per cent of participants, have succeeded in getting a job. Of course, the ParentsNext program—another program targeted at people who are moving into the workforce, in this case, parents who are out of the labour force—helps them to build work readiness, and $350 million has been committed to that program. So our government is determined to assist people make the transition from welfare into work. There is more to do, but there is very significant process being made.