Australia has least generous unemployment benefit

THE cost of increasing the Newstart Allowance by $50 a week is less than half of subsidies the Federal Government pays the mining industry each year, analysis by the Australia Institute reveals.

Institute executive director Richard Deniss said a $50-a-week rise in the dole for every Australian receiving the benefit equated to $1.8 billion a year, while the mining industry received $4 billion in annual subsidies.

He said the analysis showed Australia had the least generous unemployment benefit in the developed world, at 57% of the average income, compared with 88% in Germany.

Due to the growing inequality in wages and welfare payments, Dr Deniss said the Hawke Government did more than any other subsequent government to reduce poverty in Australia.

"The cost of increasing benefits by $50 per week is only $1.8 billion per year which is just 0.5% of the Commonwealth budget," he said.

"Or put another way, less than a third of the lifetime cost of a submarine or less than half of the $4 billion in subsidies we give to the booming mining industry each year."

The analysis was supported by several social services groups, who have been lobbying the government for the $50-a-week rise in the dole.

St Vincent de Paul Society chief executive Dr John Falzon said the current dole payment was a path to despair, rather than a path to employment.

"It is our responsibility as a nation to not only engage in a modest redistribution of resources by lifting Newstart but also to engage in a massive redistribution of hope," he said.

Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers on Monday released a report revealing the troubles Australians on welfare have in finding affordable rental accommodation.

"Even in sheer economic terms, the costs of alleviating poverty are miniscule when compared with the costs of dealing with poor health, low education and employment opportunities and crime directly caused by poverty," she said.

"Add to this the human cost and the case is impelling - no child deserves to live in poverty in Australia today."

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