Former Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce has called for Newstart payments to be lifted.
Former Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce has called for Newstart payments to be lifted. Craig Warhurst BUN160216MALCOLM1

The unlikely man giving Bundy's dole recipients a big lift

FORMER Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce wants the dole lifted and a new rate added for people living in regional areas, such as Bundaberg.

"Newstart is a hard life,” the government backbencher told The Australian on Thursday.

He backed the coalition's usual line that the best form of welfare is a job, but pointed out that to get into work people needed a certain level of infrastructure in their lives.

Latest figures show that in the Bundaberg postcode of 4670 there are more than 4000 people on Newstart payments.

Bundy people under the age of 35 and on Newstart payments are among the few in the country on the Cashless Debit Card.

Mr Joyce also wants the Newstart rate to take into account people's geographic locations, with a higher cost of living in the regions but higher rents in the cities.

"If someone's on Newstart in a town like Woolbrook, it's going to cost you $50 to go to Tamworth to do the groceries or go to a job interview,” he said.

"They live in those places because the rent's cheap but the rent's cheap because it's a long way from the services.”

The peak body for social services organisations, ACOSS, has welcomed Mr Joyce's support for the long-running push to increase the $282-a-week payment.

Hinkler MP Keith Pitt has repeatedly said in the past that the best form of welfare is a job.

Acting chief executive Jacqui Phillips said no matter where someone lives, it was really tough to get by on Newstart.

"Instead of supporting people through tough times to find suitable paid work, Newstart leaves people to choose between a roof over their head and food on the table,” she said.

Labor went to the federal election promising to review the rate of Newstart, although some among its ranks are now saying the party should have pledged outright to boost it.

The Morrison government says it has no plans to increase the unemployment payment other than through biannual indexation.

- AAP and NewsMail staff



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