Christopher Buller, 44, as been on Newstart for five years. He says while the fortnightly payments are enough to cover rent and electricity, food purchases were starting to become more of a challenge, especially with the rising cost of living.
Christopher Buller, 44, as been on Newstart for five years. He says while the fortnightly payments are enough to cover rent and electricity, food purchases were starting to become more of a challenge, especially with the rising cost of living. Sarah Steger

Welfare security on the cards as Labor promises dole rise

A BUNDABERG man on the dole has confirmed what many already suspect: welfare payments are no longer cutting it.

Christopher Buller, 44, has been on Newstart Allowance for about five years, holding casual jobs briefly throughout that period.

Despite having no dependants to support, Mr Buller said an increase in his fortnightly dole payments would give him the security he craves.

"It's adequate, but it'd be nice to have a bit extra,” he told the NewsMail.

The former Innisfail man moved to the Rum City two-and-a-half years ago, where he's completed traineeships and is now working for the dole.

He said while Newstart payments were sufficient enough to cover his rent and electricity, food "gets a bit up there some times”.

"It's pretty basic living,” Mr Buller said, adding things would only become more difficult as the cost of living rose.

His comments come after a motion, to be debated at the Labor party's upcoming national conference, revealed a plan for hundreds of thousands of dole recipients to receive greater Newstart payments in the first term of an elected federal Labor government.

If put into effect, the plan would result in the first significant increase to unemployment payments in about 25 years.

Richard Pascoe, Labor's candidate for Hinkler.
Labor candidate for Hinkler Richard Pascoe. Mike Knott BUN

Labor's candidate for Hinkler, Richard Pascoe, said the current rate of Newstart payments was too low, so much so that it acted as a barrier to job-seekers.

"That's why Labor is committed to a root and branch review of Newstart and related payments,” he told the NewsMail yesterday.

Newstart Allowance is paid every two weeks, the payments for which depend on a recipient's circumstances.

However, the base rate for singles is about $275 a week.

Mr Pascoe said the social security system could be complex, "and we need to know exactly what should change to best help people looking for work and alleviate poverty”.

"This is the same approach Labor took with the pension when we were last in government,” he said.

In the past, Labor has already committed to evaluating the sufficiency of Newstart payments and examining how to get more long-term unemployed into work, if it wins the next federal election.

"Of course though, the best way to resolve the high unemployment rate in the area is to invest in job creating industries, to drive growth in the area and create job opportunities for those currently unemployed,” Mr Pascoe told the NewsMail.