Today, the single rate of Newstart is $244 a week - that's just 45% of the minimum wage and is more than $130 under the poverty line. On average, recipients are forced to live on less than $17 a day after they've paid their rent.
That's less than $17 a day for all other expenses, including utilities, transport, food, personal care and job-seeking; and doesn't leave scope to save for other major expenses such as car license and registration renewal, replacement white goods or a health crisis.
Look at how this compares to other people in the community - the average weekly expenditure of a single person under 35 (excluding rent) is $84 a day and the average weekly expenditure of a single person over 65 (excluding rent) is $53 a day.
Subsisting on such a tiny income over an extended period of time dramatically shrinks your world and for many leads to a cycle of debt, stress and social isolation that gets harder and harder to break out of.
This becomes more and more of a problem the longer you receive the payment, and more than 60% of the people who get onto Newstart are on it for more than 12 months, demonstrating the fact that the current system broken.
This is not enough to support people while they get a new start in life. It affects their ability to search for work, particularly if they face other barriers such as age, disability or education, as many long term recipients of Newstart do.
The Greens want to make considered changes to the system in order to help people find a job quicker and rely less on income support. To achieve this, we are seeking a $50 per week increase to Newstart, retaining the incentive to work but helping hundreds of thousands of Australians avoid the poverty trap. We are also seeking to improve the capacity of employment service providers, allowing them to work more intensively with job seekers and make it easier for people to find work.
We believe that a socially just, democratic society is one that guarantees an adequate income safety net for all Australians and allows people to live with dignity even when facing some of the toughest times of their lives. The complacency of the old parties in leaving people to languish in poverty or trapping them in debt is unacceptable.