Mark McGowan has backed an increase to Centrelink’s Newstart Allowance, as an inquiry is launched into the rate of payment for Australia’s job seekers.
The WA Premier said that people who were finding it hard to get a job or more hours around the country needed more support, including WA job seekers who could not find work in the state’s struggling economy.
Mr McGowan was concerned that it was not possible to live on the payment, which has not risen above inflation since 1994, claiming “obviously it’s very low.”
“People getting by on $40 a day or whatever it is, is frankly impossible,” Mr McGowan said.
He warned that the low payment could create bigger problems for job seekers and society, creating poverty.
“When you live in poverty, you create crime, you create terrible issues,” he said.
Mr McGowan said Australia had “a decent safety net” that needed to continue supporting people who needed it and give them “a little bit of dignity.”
“We need to make sure that it remains decent,” he said.
It came as the State Government had been considering with the City of Perth to build a homeless shelter for Perth’s CBD, to assist people sleeping on Perth streets.
WA’s economy has been struggling, resulting in a number of businesses in Perth’s CBD and Mount Lawley unable to hire and closing their doors.
However, Mr McGowan believed the state was improving with better “economic figures coming through, tourism figures coming through.”
A federal parliamentary inquiry was launched into the rate of the payment on Thursday, after a motion to establish the upper house inquiry succeeded in a 35 to 31 vote following a joint push by Labor and the Greens with crossbench support.
WA Liberal Senator Dean Smith broke ranks with the government to join the growing chorus of welfare advocates, economists and former Prime Minister John Howard for an increase.
The move came after a Greens private members bill to raise the rate by $75 a week was rejected in the Senate.
The Federal Government has continued to reject the pressure to increase the Newstart rate.
It has stated that its goal was to place jobseekers into jobs.
“That is not something that we are considering,” Federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said when asked about whether the government would raise the payment.
Ms Cash said the government understood that it was not easy to live on the payment, but maintained that recipients of the payment “actually transition off Newstart within a 12 month period.”
“We have made it very clear as a government is that the best form of welfare is a job,” she said.
“Our focus needs to be on the programs that will work with you to get you off welfare and into sustainable employment.”