The Government announced a $17.6 billion stimulus package today, which includes a $750 one-off cash handout to Newstart recipients as well as pensioners.
The $750 cash payment is estimated to be offered to more than six million Australians, and will flow from 31 March, in an effort to boost an economy that's flailing thanks to the now-ravenous coronavirus.
While the news has been met positively by some, a national advocate for those affected isn't 100% satisfied.
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) said although the stimulus package provides welcome short-term relief for people on low-incomes, more is needed to safeguard the economy and Australia's most vulnerable.
ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie has called on the government to raise the rate of Newstart as well.
“People are doing it really tough, especially people on Newstart and Youth Allowance – the lowest payments – and pensioners who don’t own their home," Ms Goldie said.
"Leading economists urged the government to increase Newstart ongoing to build consumer confidence and to guarantee that the payment would be spent into the real economy.
“We know that increasing Newstart by $95 per week ongoing would inject $4 billion into the economy a year and generate more than 12,000 jobs, helping to deliver the ongoing confidence business is crying out for."
As ACOSS CEO @cassandragoldie said on @TheTodayShow this morning, it’s important the Government's economic stimulus package goes where it’s needed most – that’s why so many economists are backing our call for an ongoing increase to #Newstart.#auspol #RasietheRate pic.twitter.com/HCKWi3Foa2— ACOSS (@ACOSS) March 11, 2020
ACOSS has long backed an increase to the rate if Newstart as a way of boosting the economy, and it's not the only one.
A number of MPs have come out in support of an increase lately, including the likes of Barnaby Joyce, Dean Smith and Matthew Canavan, as well as NSW Deputy Leader and NSW Nationals Leader John Barilaro.
In February, Nationals MP Pat Conaghan came out in support of an increase citing concerns over child poverty, telling the ABC that "this is something that I think should be at the top of my priority list because you’ve got kids that are going to school without food".
Ms Goldie said we will need to see much more from the government in the coming weeks to safeguard people and the economy.
“The Government has not targeted today’s package in the way that was needed, with some of these $750 payments going to households who don’t qualify for a pension because they have millions in superannuation assets," she said.
"These households are less likely to spend than someone living on $40 a day. Others are seriously left behind, particularly larger families on very low incomes.
“We’re calling on the Government to urgently increase Newstart by $95 per week ongoing by the Federal Budget to help lift people out of poverty and prevent those facing job losses from falling into the poverty trap, while rebuilding the economy."
The Morrison Government has announced a $17.6b economic stimulus plan in response to the challenges posed by the #coronavirus.— Josh Frydenberg (@JoshFrydenberg) March 12, 2020
We are focused on keeping Australians in jobs, keeping businesses in business & supporting the Australian economy.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg defended the stimulus package, saying the one-off payments are very much targeted, with around half of the payments going to pensioners.
"They’re not splashed around the economy. They’re very much targeted to those who need it most and you’ll see that all very much later today," he told Sky News.
"But this is different to what we’ve seen in the past, we’re not repeating the same mistakes of the past.
"This is targeted, temporary and proportionate."
The Treasurer also said this was likely to be the first phase of assistance to households and businesses: Stimulus will likely be revisted at the May budget.
The Government also reduced deeming rates today in a bid to help pensioners further.
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