Former treasurer and Brisbane federal MP Wayne Swan is the incoming Labor national president.
Former treasurer and Brisbane federal MP Wayne Swan is the incoming Labor national president.

Best news for the jobless in a generation

HUNDREDS of thousands of dole recipients would receive a "substantial" increase if Labor won the next election, under a plan to be debated at the party's national conference.

In what would be the first real increase to unemployment payments in a quarter of a century, the plan would see Labor promise a catch-up boost to address the "shamefully low" level of the dole.

About 700,000 people currently receive Newstart, which has a base rate of $275 a week for singles, or about $40 a day.

Labor has already committed to review the adequacy of Newstart if it wins the next election and investigate ways to get more long-term unemployed into work.

But a motion to be debated at the conference, obtained by News Queensland, commits Labor to go further and deliver "a substantial increase to Newstart payments in the first term of an elected Federal Labor Government".

The resolution will be proposed by inner-western Sydney mayor Darcy Byrne and has the backing of the Left and large right-wing shop assistants' union, the SDA.

But some senior members of the opposition are resisting a push for a $75 a week increase proposed by welfare group Australian Council of Social Service before a review of the budget.

 

According to opinion polls, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is likely to be elected prime minister at the 2019 poll.
According to opinion polls, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is likely to be elected prime minister at the 2019 poll.

 

Mr Byrne, who is close to frontbencher Anthony Albanese, said the dole payment was a "national shame" and there was growing pressure for Labor to increase it.

"Not a single soul in the Labor Party or the trade union movement thinks the rate of Newstart is fair or adequate," he said.

"After years of derogatory rhetoric towards Australians who are out of work, Labor has an opportunity this weekend to recast the national debate."

Advocates argue an increase would help address the growing gap between rich and poor in Australia, which was the campaign focus of incoming Labor national president Wayne Swan.

Leader Bill Shorten has previously said he assumed Labor's planned review would lead to an increase in the payment but has not committed to a level.

The Business Council of Australia and Morrison government Cabinet minister Matt Canavan have recently called for a dole increase.

ACOSS chief Cassandra Goldie said people living on Newstart were existing "below the poverty line" and warned "it is very hard to look for a job when you're worried about how to keep a roof over your head and put food on the table".