Lisa Chesters.

Federal Member for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters has thrown her support behind raising the Newstart allowance and will establish an alliance to advocate for a rise in the rate.

She said there are 5628 people on Newstart in the Bendigo electorate and the average time spent on the payment is 156 weeks.

“Any one of us could find ourselves looking for work, or extra work, to make ends meet,” she said

“Newstart is too low – it’s so low that people are being pushed into poverty and its preventing people from getting work.

“I am calling on the Liberal National government to increase the Newstart rate to ensure that Australians can live in dignity while looking for work.”

Liberal Senator for Victoria Jane Hume said no one is saying it’s easy to get by without a job.

“The government is squarely focused on job creation to help working age Australians gain financial independence,” Senator Hume said.

“We are delivering jobs in the Bendigo region.”

Senator Hume said employment in the Bendigo region has increased by 12,600 (or 18.5 per cent) since September 2013. Total employment now stands at 80,700, and by comparison, employment nationally has increased by 12.2 per cent over the same period.

“Around two-thirds of those granted Newstart get off the payment within 12 months,” Senator Hume said.

Ms Chesters said across the state, the highest cohort on Newstart are people aged 45-55.

“I will be working to gather community, welfare and faith based groups to help build a local campaign to raise the rate,” Ms Chesters said.

“I have met with local welfare groups and Newstart recipients across our region to learn first-hand about their struggles with the current payment.”

Bendigo Family and Financial Services’ Jenny Elvey says they see many people in financial crisis despite them receiving Newstart.

“Many clients receiving Newstart present to our agency for food assistance and financial counselling,” Ms Elvey said.

“They struggle to keep a
roof over their head and hold on to assets, feeding themselves is often the last thing they think about.”

In answer to the call for a rise in the rate Senator Hume said 99 per cent of Newstart Allowance recipients receive an additional supplementary payment, such as rental assistance, parenting payments or the energy supplement .

“This works out to an extra $130 a fortnight on average on top of the $555 base rate,” Senator Hume said.

– Steve Kendall