It’s almost a decade since the Henry Review of the tax system recommended an increase in Newstart payments, with new rules designed to help them keep pace with pensions. Treasury secretary Ken Henry and his colleagues proposed that indexed “adequacy benchmarks” be introduced to make the payment system more “robust,” and that rent assistance should be lifted and linked to movements in national rents.
But the government still sees no need for change. “We have one of the best safety nets, if not the best, of anywhere in the world,” prime minister Scott Morrison declared in May. The unemployed “don’t just live on Newstart alone,” he said. “It goes up twice a year and 99 per cent of people on Newstart are also on other payments.” Meanwhile, Labor has backed away from its promise of a comprehensive review, with shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers declaring, “If people want to see a boost to Newstart, then they have to convince the government.”