National Seniors Australia, the country’s peak advocacy body for older Australians is calling for the Prime Minister to respond to growing demands he considers raising the Newstart allowance.
National Seniors is also demanding the allowance be included in the upcoming Productivity Commission review into retirement income and that it, along with the aged pension, be set independently of government.
It follows Barnaby Joyce’s comments yesterday that he now claims he has a better understanding of the financial stresses for someone on Newstart.
National Seniors Chief Advocate, Ian Henschke says the former Deputy Prime Minister is among at least seven Coalition MPs or Senators to publicly support raising the allowance.
“The Prime Minister has to respond to a growing chorus of concern across the parliament, including conservative voices.
“We are calling on the conservatives to show the courage of their convictions,” he said.
Former Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos was the first Coalition MP to break ranks in calling for an increase back on April 1 this year.
Since then, he has been joined by fellow Liberals, Russell Broadbent, Dean Smith, Andrew Wallace and The Nationals’ Matt Canavan and Barnaby Joyce who point out a raise in Newstart would help regional areas.
Before the election, even former Prime Minister John Howard joined the chorus of those wanting a raise in the rate.
Mr Henschke says Newstart and its impact on older Australians is inextricably linked to retirement poverty.
“This is all part of the retirement ecosystem, with the emphasis on “eco” as in economics.
“The government’s own figures show more than 170,000 people between 55 and 64 are on Newstart, the largest of any age group.
“They struggle to find a job, struggle to make ends meet, forcing them to eat into their retirement savings - and as a result, they struggle to stay out of poverty when they do eventually retire,” he said.
Mr Henschke says to have Newstart left out of the retirement review is inexplicable.
“We call on the government to include it in the review on retirement income.
“It’s false economics to punish older Australians needlessly as they head towards retirement because they will end up on a full pension after chewing up their savings and super,” Mr Henschke said.
National Seniors Chief Advocate Ian Henschke is available for comment.
Media contact: Craig Sullivan 0488 047 380