National News

Newstart inquiry to begin in Canberra


Calls to raise Newstart will be put directly to senior government bureaucrats during a parliamentary inquiry into the unemployment welfare payment.

There has been widespread pressure to raise the $40-a-day dole, which has barely budged in real terms for a quarter of a century.

The Department of Social Services will begin Thursday's hearings after leading a multi-agency submission describing Newstart as differing markedly from the social insurance approaches of most developed countries.

The Senate's community affairs committee is looking into the adequacy of Newstart and related payments, and alternative mechanisms set income support payments.

Treasury and the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business are also due to give evidence.

Left-leaning think tank The Australia Institute will appear, after noting in its submission an increase of around $200 a week could be appropriate.

"It is urgent that Newstart is made much more adequate than now," it said.

Mental Health Australia is another group agitating for a rise in Newstart set to appear before the inquiry.

"The pressures for Australians of surviving on a budget far below the recognised poverty rate exacerbates experiences of mental illness and is counter-active to recovery and independence," its submission said.

Wages umpire the Fair Work Commission will also appear amid calls for a similar independent body to set the rate of unemployment payments.

The Morrison government has rejected calls to raise Newstart, while Labor is calling for it to be raised despite promising only to review it if the party won the election.

The Greens want the payment boosted by at least $75-a-week.

© AAP 2019