Prime Minister Scott Morrison is under renewed pressure from within his own ranks to increase unemployment benefits with a Nationals MP arguing it is needed to address poverty in rural and regional areas. Source: ABC News.
By Lucy Barbour, ABC News
First-term MP Pat Conaghan, who represents the New South Wales mid-north coast seat of Cowper, has broken ranks from Government policy and told the ABC he wants the Coalition to raise Newstart by $75 a week.
Mr Conaghan joins a growing number of colleagues including former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce and former prime minister John Howard pushing for an increase.
He described the current rate as “inadequate” and said the Government should still be in a position to adjust Newstart, despite budget pressures.
“I would urge my colleagues from both sides of the floor to have a real discussion. Not just throw it up in the air and punch the ball around,” he said.
“This is something that I think should be at the top of my priority list because you’ve got kids that are going to school without food.”
Newstart recipients get a minimum of $280 a week and, in real terms, the rate has not been raised in two decades.
It is estimated a $75 per week increase would cost the budget $3.3 billion a year, and Mr Conaghan acknowledged it was a sensitive time to campaign on the issue because of the money being spent on bushfire recovery, drought, floods and managing coronavirus.
“It’s probably the worst time to raise this conversation but we have to have it,” he said.
“Despite the challenges we’ve faced over the last 12 months, I think we’re still in a position that if we start that conversation now we’ll recover from the fires, we’ll get over the coronavirus, and the budget will still be in a position where we can genuinely talk about raising Newstart.”
Successive governments have shown little appetite for increasing the rate despite pressure from leading economists, social services and business groups.