News National Go figure, PM: The real ‘extras’ with Newstart cost $8.80 a fortnight

Go figure, PM: The real ‘extras’ with Newstart cost $8.80 a fortnight

Scott Morrison has been pressed about the issue of compensation for victims of the Robodebt scheme. Photo: Getty/TND
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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been accused of peddling porkies after claiming people on the dole secure $130 a fortnight on average in extra payments.

The New Daily asked welfare groups, the Department of Social Services and the Australian National University to crunch the numbers.

The Department’s figures show a majority of people on Newstart – 51 per cent – receive on average just $14 a fortnight extra and no rent assistance.

ANU Associate Professor Ben Phillips said the more accurate figure is the median amount people on Newstart receive from a supplement payment.

The median figure is just $8.80 a fortnight.

The base rate of Newstart is $555 a fortnight or less than $40 a day.

The supplements available to the unemployed include carer’s allowance, the energy supplement, rent assistance, and family tax benefits.

The majority do not secure rent assistance either, but the “99 per cent” who secure an extra payment largely consists of an energy supplement worth a piddling 65 cents a day.

Professor Phillips said the median figure was more accurate than the average figure quoted by the PM in Parliament.

By his calculation, the average in supplement payments is $146.30 a fortnight, but the median is $8.80.

“There’s a small number of people on Newstart with kids getting family tax benefits and that’s blowing out the average,” he said.

Labor frontbencher Linda Burney said Mr Morrison was being “mean, tricky and misleading”.

“People on Newstart are doing it really, really tough,” she said.

“The least they deserve is a government that tells the truth and doesn’t dress up figures to distract from the inadequacy of Newstart and the Liberals and Nationals inaction.

“It’s yet another example of the Prime Minister being out of touch, tricky and misleading on Newstart.”

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said it was misleading to claim people on the dole were getting $130 a fortnight in extras.

“It’s not accurate. Those parents that do receive family tax benefits on Newstart are raising their kids,” Senator Siewert said.

“The median is $8. When he says 99 per cent are getting supplements, that’s 65 cents a day from the energy supplement. Good luck spending that.”

On Monday, Mr Morrison warned he was not impressed by the “unfunded empathy” of the ALP on Newstart.

Labor is backing an increase but has declined to nominate the value of the increase or how much it would cost.

“The best form of welfare is a job,” Mr Morrison said.

“I’m asked about the rate of Newstart – $555 a fortnight. But, on average, an additional $130.50 is paid per fortnight to Newstart recipients, and some 99 per cent, I am advised, actually receive payments over and above Newstart.

“I’ll tell you what I won’t do when it comes to Newstart in this place: I will not engage in the unfunded empathy of the Labor Party.”

The PM has also repeatedly claimed that “99 per cent” get more than $555 a fortnight.

“They are not just on Newstart. There is rental assistance and other support measures in the income support system and social services, which support people in those situations,” he said.

Newstart is supplemented by an $8.80-a-fortnight energy supplement and a maximum rent assistance payment of $137.20 a fortnight, or $91.47 a fortnight if living in a share house.

The New Daily also asked the Department of Social Services to provide a breakdown of how many people on the dole secure these extras.

The most up-to-date figures provided by the Department show a majority of Newstart recipients – 51 per cent – do not secure rent assistance and get just $14 a fortnight extra on average.

About one-third secure rent assistance that is worth, on average, $100 a fortnight.

A small group of parents – around 9 per cent of people on Newstart receive rent assistance and family tax benefit payments worth $500 a fortnight extra, and that is the group blowing out the average.

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