Federal Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters MP.

Federal member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters has encouraged central Victorians receiving Newstart payments to make a submission to the ‘Adequacy of Newstart and related payments’ senate inquiry.

The Newstart Allowance is a main income support payment for people who are unemployed and looking for work.

A maximum payment of $555.70 is made per fortnight to eligible singles with no dependents or $501.70 for partnered individuals.

Ms Chesters contends the current Newstart Allowance is too low.

“It’s so low that people are being pushed into poverty and it’s preventing people from getting work,” Ms Chesters said.

Liberal Senator Jane Hume said the government is focused on job creation to help working age Australians gain financial independence.

“We are delivering jobs in the Bendigo region. Employment has increased by 12,600 or 18.5 per cent since September 2013,” Sen. Hume said.

Submissions are sought by 5pm today, with the Senate Community Affairs References Committee for Inquiry to report on the matter by March 27, 2020.

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

There are 5628 people on the Newstart Allowance in the Bendigo electorate and the average time spent on the payment is 156 weeks.

Across the state, the highest cohort of Newstart recipients are in the 45-55 year old age bracket.

Haven; Home Safe offers homelessness support services and affordable housing, with chief executive officer Ken Marchingo saying the majority of the organisation’s ‘rough sleepers’ were on Newstart.

“Newstart is grossly inadequate, is now, has been for years … and everyone knows it, including the people who are supposed to govern for all of the population,” Mr Marchingo said.

Senator Hume said the government’s jobs plans is working, with the proportion of working-age Australians receiving support payments falling to the lowest level in 30 years.

“We recognise there are times when people need a safety net to help them when they are down on their luck,” Sen Hume said.

“However, as for everything funded by taxpayers, it must be managed responsibly.”

– NICHOLAS NAKOS