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Issue #1582      February 20, 2013

New bonus payment small first step

The National Welfare Rights Network (NWRN) has welcomed the passage of the new Income Support Bonus, worth $210 per year and is shocked that the Coalition voted against such a small bonus. Despite the passage of the Bill, much more needs to be done to address the increasing levels of hardship and poverty being experienced by over 700,000 Australians, many living on the Newstart Allowance of just $35 per day.

“The new supplement is very small but welcome particularly as it is paid six monthly giving people the chance to have a small lump sum to buy, for example, a coat or shoes or pay an unexpected bill. This is the first real increase in income support payments to unemployed people and students in almost two decades,” said Maree O’Halloran of the NWRN.

“The bonus is recognition that payments for unemployed people and students are inadequate, but it needs to be followed up with a substantial increase of $50 per week for single people in the May federal budget.”

The new income support bonus provides $210 a year to single recipients, $350 a year for most couples where both partners are eligible. The payment is tax-free and is not means-tested, and will be indexed to the Consumer Price Index. It will be paid in instalments in March and September each year. But anyone subject to income management will have half the funds quarantined under the Basics Card.

“The increase equates to just $4 a week. This bonus will, of course, not ameliorate the anger of 84,000 single parents, some of whom protested on the streets [earlier this month]. However, NWRN welcomes this disbursement as a down payment and a starting point for delivering a fair go to people out of work. Much more is needed if we are genuine in wanting to lift unemployed people out of poverty and into work.

“It is very disappointing that the Coalition voted against the bonus. In November last year, Coalition Senators on a Senate Committee agreed that the Newstart Allowance, at just $246 per week, fails to provide an acceptable standard of living “for anything but the shortest period”.   

Next article – Government buckles over coal seam gas

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