Raise the rate

Raise the Rate Drive at Addison Road Community Centre

The Addison Road Community Centre in Marrickville, Sydney, has renamed one of its streets to Raise The Rate Drive to help raise awareness about the campaign to raise the rate of payments for welfare recipients.

An Anti-Poverty Week rally in Perth in 2008.

All of us know someone who is worse off than ourselves. Chances are that person is someone barely surviving on the Newstart Allowance.

Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) campaign coordinator Pas Forgione outlined why a campaign to “Raise the rate” of the Newstart unemployment benefit is desperately needed, at a June 15 community forum in Sydney’s west.

How much bigger has Australia’s economy become since 1994? The answer, per head of population, seems to be: close to 50%. That’s not in current dollars, but adjusted for inflation. So can “Australia” (read: the big end of town) afford to raise the rate of Newstart payments — currently at a base rate of $273 a week for a single person — for the unemployed?

The Newstart Allowance received by Australia’s jobless (if they are lucky enough to get it) stands at $273 a week. The last time it was raised, relative to the Consumer Price Index, was in 1994. Last year, the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research calculated the poverty line for a single adult was at around $510 a week (including housing costs). That corresponds to a present figure of about $521. This means Newstart is now $248 a week below that miserably low poverty line.

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