Minimum wage and the dole are shaping up as election issues. Picture: Joe Castro/AAP
Minimum wage and the dole are shaping up as election issues. Picture: Joe Castro/AAP

‘Boost dole and minimum wage’

AUSTRALIA'S poorest people need the government to match any increase to the minimum wage with a boost to the dole, the social services sector says.

The Australia Council of Social Services says it's not good enough to just lift the minimum wage, as the nation's lowest earners are often reliant on both welfare and their scant earnings.

It is calling for a substantial rise to the minimum wage and a $75 a week lift to Newstart.

Council chief executive Cassandra Goldie said the existing daily rate of the unemployment payment was equivalent to just two hours of work at the minimum wage.

"We need government and business to both play their part to for people on the lowest 40 per cent of incomes - both people relying on income support and wage earners, who in reality are often the same people at different stages of life, sometimes week to week," she said.

"People on the lowest incomes - including Newstart and minimum wages - must spend the money they receive to cover the very basics like food and rent, so boosting their incomes is a far more effective way to bolster economic growth than more tax cuts."

ACOSS has highlighted when the dole was last increased - 25 years ago - the minimum wage was 60 per cent of the median full-time wage, and Newstart was 25 per cent of the former.

In 2018, the minimum wage was 49 per cent of the median and Newstart was 19 per cent of the minimum.

The council's submission to the Fair Work Commission's annual minimum wage review calls for it to make a "substantial increase".

ACOSS wants the commission to also start making regular comparisons of the living standards of minimum wage-earning households against a benchmark of a "decent basic living standard" for a single adult.

The Catholic Church's submission to the review says neither governments nor employers are doing enough to support low-paid Australians.

"What was an inadequate wage for a family two decades ago has become a reasonable wage for a single adult without family responsibilities. That is simply unacceptable," said Megan Kavanagh, a member of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference employment relations reference group.

The bishops conference has called for the minimum wage to be lifted to $760 a week - or $20 an hour - from its current level of $719.20.

The Newstart allowance for a single person with no children is $275 a week.