MEDIA RELEASE: ACOSS visits Cairns to hear from Newstart recipients following disappointing Budget week

Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) is visiting Cairns today to meet with local residents receiving the Newstart allowance and to call on Cairns Regional Council and federal political leaders to pledge their support for the Raise the Rate campaign.

The Leichardt electorate, which covers 80% of the population living in the Cairns metropolitan area, is a marginal federal electorate and there are 6,790 local Newstart recipients in the area.  

The campaign will be hosting a community forum today that will hear from local residents receiving Newstart who will share their stories about how tough it is to survive on the current rate of $40 per day.

The campaign will then address the Cairns Regional Council tomorrow morning at their council meeting and will call on the council to pledge their support for the Raise the Rate campaign.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said:

“The trip to Cairns follows what was certainly not the budget we wanted, to say the least, but it was so encouraging that Newstart generated so much public and media discussion and concern.

“Newstart was one of the hottest issues of the Budget week, firstly because it saw both the Government and the Opposition fail to increase the rate of Newstart allowance for the 25thyear in a row, and because everyone was asking why not? 

“With the Federal Election fast approaching and on the back of a Budget week in which everyone was talking about the need to increase Newstart, we are travelling to Cairns today to hear directly from members of the local community and to strengthen our calls on the Cairns Regional Council and Government and all candidates to pledge their support for the campaign.

“Australia’s income support system was designed to help people when they are going through tough times to support them into suitable paid work. But Newstart is not working – the rate has not been increased in real terms for 25 years while living costs for people on low incomes have gone through the roof.

“The current rate of $40 per day is too low to give people the support they need and forces them into a cycle of debt, social isolation and humiliation that undermines their efforts to find suitable work and risks them slipping through the cracks into a cycle of poverty.

“Raising the rate by about $10 per day will strengthen Newstart by easing financial stress so people looking for employment have the best chance to get into the workforce.”

According to QCOSS’ 2019 ‘Living Affordability In Queensland report, Cairns has the highest food costs in Queensland, $124, on average, per week, for a single unemployed person, and higher than average household energy costs.

The average rent for a single unemployed person in Cairns is $97 a week.

The Raise the Rate campaign has seen business groups, charities, unions and local councils unite to call on the government to raise the rate of Newstart, the payment for people looking for paid work, which has not been raised in real terms for over two decades.

Community meeting details:

When: Tuesday, April 9, 12 – 2PM

Where: Cairns Senior Citizens Association, 271 Gatton Street, Cairns

Who: ACOSS CEO, Dr. Cassandra Goldie, Raise the Rate Campaign Coordinator Pas Forgione, local Newstart recipients

Council meeting details:

When: Wednesday, April 10, 10 AM – 12 PM

Where: 119-145 Spence Street, Cairns

Who: ACOSS CEO, Dr. Cassandra Goldie, Raise the Rate Campaign Coordinator Pas Forgione, local Newstart recipients

MEDIA CONTACT: BRONTE KERR, 0411 676 269