Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has sparked controversy after boldly claiming Australians should be willing to move into regional areas to find work instead of living off the dole, as calls for a rise in the Newstart allowance continue.
The politician defended the current rate given by the government to unemployed Aussies throughout the country, claiming the allowance is simply there as a safety measure and should not be used as a living wage.
Speaking to Sky News about the ongoing calls to increase the amount which has not budged in 25 years, McCormack said Australians should pack up home and move closer to “good paying jobs” in regional Australia that are on offer.
“What I think we do need in this country is a more mobile workforce,” he explained. “So people have to be prepared to move sometimes out of their comfort zone and out of their home town to the next town to take a job.”
.@M_McCormackMP on raising Newstart: People have to be prepared to move, sometimes, out of their comfort zone, out of their home town, and move to the next town to take a job. Newstart is not meant to be a living wage.
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) July 23, 2019
The pollie went on to claim that while jobs may not be available in a person’s home town, there are plenty out there up for grabs in other parts of the country, you just have to be willing to have a change in scenery.
“A job, any job, will be better than none at all and it will be better than living on welfare,” McCormack added. “And certainly with Newstart, it is that stopgap, it is that safety measure it is not supposed to be a living wage as such.”
The current Newstart Allowance sits at $555.70 per fortnight, or just under $40 a day for a single person, while married couples receive $501.70 per person to cover costs.
While McCormack is not in favour of a suggested rise of $75 a week, Greens Senator Rachel Siewert holds the opposite view, labelling the current payment “unacceptable”.
The politician claimed current amounts do not cover necessities like housing, food and transport and are leaving many living in poverty, news.com.au reports.
“This is unacceptable,” she said according to the news outlet. “In a wealthy country like Australia, no one deserves to be living in poverty.
“I find it utterly shameful that Australia has the second-worst poverty rate among unemployed people in the OECD.”
She added: “We know that poverty can act as a barrier to finding work. By keeping payment rates below the poverty line, Newstart is doing the opposite of what it’s meant to do.”
The comments come after the government chose not to include a raise to the allowance in its 2019 Budget, despite repeated calls for the unemployment payment to be increased.
Late last year protestors even rallied together with signs calling for the government to “raise the rate” as then opposition leader Bill Shorten and his party met for their national conference in Adelaide.
The protesters sang a reworked version of Gough Whitlam’s famous political song “It’s Time” as hundreds of delegates entered the building in South Australia’s capital.
“Time for changing, not deck chair rearranging… it’s time for poor folk, no rich folk,” they sang confidentially.