Extract from an article by Katherine Gillespie
Rent is skyrocketing and life is more expensive than ever—so why hasn’t our national unemployment benefit increased since 1995?
The last time dole payments increased, Paul Keating was Prime Minister and Coolio was number one on the ARIA charts. It was 1995, effectively the last year anyone could be unemployed and enjoy the same standard of living as someone receiving a retirement pension or working a minimum wage job.
“Since 1995 the incomes of most working people have increased by about 50 percent in real terms,” Peter Whiteford, a professor at ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy, explains to VICE. “Newstart recipients are getting the same real income they did more than 20 years ago but most other people have improved their income. So the gap between people on Newstart and most other people of working age has widened.”
The federal government is well aware that life has become more expensive since 1995. The national retirement pension, for example, has been increased in line with the average total weekly earnings of men (they earn more than women!) since 1997. The only major increase to Newstart payments, 2013’s Clean Energy Supplement, was actually taken away when the carbon tax was abolished in 2016.
Is any of this a problem? Well yeah, probably so. Economists, The Business Council of Australia, KPMG, the Unemployed Workers Union and the Australian Council of Social Service have all argued that Newstart payments should increase.
Produced by the librarians at the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Melbourne, Australia