Uniting Church president Stuart McMillan and UnitingCare Australia acting director Martin Cowling have joined other prominent Australians in signing an open letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull calling on the government not to proceed with planned cuts to the Newstart allowance.
Mr McMillan and Mr Cowling are among 34 signatories to the letter prepared by The Australia Institute think tank urging the government not to axe a supplement of $4.40 a week for those applying for the Newstart unemployment allowance after 20 September this year.
“The Business Council of Australia has argued that Newstart’s $264 per week is too low for people experiencing unemployment,” the letter says.
“Cutting it further by removing the $4.40 per week energy supplement for all new welfare recipients means it is the Australians who are struggling the most who are again being asked to shoulder the burden of ‘budget savings’.”
The open letter points out that while at the time of the Sydney Olympics someone on Newstart would have been at the poverty line, recipients are now 26 per cent below it, and if the cut comes into effect they will be 32 per cent below.
Other signatories to the letter include former Liberal leader John Hewson, former politicians Carmen Lawrence and Cheryl Kernot and businessman John Menadue.
The letter concludes with: “We urge the prime minister and all political leaders not to cut Newstart.”
The $4.40 per week supplement was introduced by the last Labor government to compensate for the effects of the now abolished carbon price.
Middle class income tax cuts that were introduced to offset the carbon price have been left in place.
The proposed Newstart cut will be part of a $6 billion “omnibus” savings bill to be introduced into parliament this week.
Labor has said it will look at individual measures in the bill and square them with election commitments.
The ALP supported the cut to Newstart in the last election but since then Labor Leader Bill Shorten has said the unemployment assistance is too low.
The Australia Institute is inviting people to sign another open letter addressed to Mr Turnbull posted on its website.
This letter reads: “We the undersigned urge you not to cut Newstart for people already living on the brink, and certainly not when you are proceeding with $50 billion worth of company tax cuts.”
At the time of writing the website said it had collected 6497 signatures.
Image: David Jackmanson via Flickr.