By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Greater Dandenong mayor Roz Blades has taken aim at NewStart, describing its crippling impact on thousands of people in Dandenong as akin to ‘NewStarve’.
Speaking after a Homelessness Week launch on 9 August, Cr Blades said people were literally starving on the NewStart rate of $40 a day.
It was a factor for many of the 2000-plus people living in “severely over-crowded” conditions or at risk of homelessness in Greater Dandenong.
“I’m trying to make it a stark reality – NewStart equals NewStarve.
“The facts are people are starving because all they’ve got is NewStart.”
Cr Blades urged residents to put up signs in car windows and shop fronts as part of a “community groundswell”.
“I think one person can make a difference. And I’m asking every other person to make a difference.”
Cr Blades called for state and federal governments to urgently increase social housing stocks. It would create jobs and reduce the nation’s welfare bill, she said.
“Housing and only housing can end the cycle of homelessness.”
Dandenong-based homelessness service Wayss is backing a national campaign to raise the NewStart rate by $75 a fortnight.
The meagre payment was behind a “skyrocketing demand” for homelessness support services, chief executive Elizabeth Thomas said.
“We’re seeing people who can’t afford the basic necessities of life – housing, food and clothing,” Ms Thomas said.
“The costs of health and dental care and internet access are way out of their financial reach, which not only impacts their personal welfare, it makes it all the more difficult to obtain employment.”
Ms Thomas said the NewStart rise would not be enough in itself to tackle homelessness.
“To alleviate rental stress, we desperately need investment in diverse housing options, and affordable housing for low-income earners.”
According to the Federal Government, there are 7065 people in Dandenong on NewStart or Youth Allowance – though that’s down from 7571 in June 2018.
When asked about the NewStart rate, Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said the Government was focused on job creation.
“No one is saying it’s easy to get by without a job which is why the Morrison Government is focused on job creation to help working age Australians gain financial independence.
“It is encouraging to see Dandenong punching above its weight with a 6.7 per cent drop in the number of people relying on Newstart in the area between June 2018 and June this year.”
Bruce MP Julian Hill said the NewStart rate was a barrier to people finding work and “trapping thousands of people in poverty in our community alone”.
“Even those radical lefties at the Business Council of Australia say that Newstart needs to be raised.
“Only the Prime Minister continues to pretend there is not a problem and his refusal to address this is a disgrace.
“As the value of Newstart continues to erode in real terms, the Liberals may as well come clean and rename it ‘Newstarvation’.”