HINKLER MP: Newstart recipients to get one-off boost

A FEDERAL Government back-flip is set to give Newstart recipients a helping hand to pay their power bills.

People on Newstart were initially excluded from the energy assistance budget sweetener for other welfare recipients, which is worth $75 to singles and $125 for couples.

With the addition of Newstart recipients, the plan is now expected to cost the government $365million, up $80million from the budget announcement.

Despite the one-off assistance, the government made no move to increase the unemployment allowance.

Newstart recipients are given $538.80 per fortnight, an amount that has barely budged for more than 25 years.

Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt had little to say about the lack of additional support for Newstart recipients, instead focusing on the one-off payment those on the unemployment benefit would now receive.

"The Federal Government's Energy Assistance Payment of $75 will be provided to Newstart participants as stated by the Treasurer," he said.

Mr Pitt is a vocal supporter of the Cashless Debit Card, which is being rolled out to thousands of welfare recipients in his electorate.

He said the government was looking to extend the existing trials through the House of Representatives and the Senate, but acknowledged time was running short.

"The feedback has been very positive," he said.

Mr Pitt said shop fronts in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay were helping recipients understand the card.

Hervey Bay Chamber of Commerce president Sandra Holebrook said there was always an "ongoing argument" about how much social welfare should be increased.

She told the Chronicle the government not "fiddling around" with welfare payments seemed like an "incentive to go and get people out to work".

"I think they want to see how well the Cashless Debit Card works," Ms Holebrook said.

"It really should never have had the focus put on it, there should have been the electronic move.

"The disengagement with finding work in this region has got to be reversed."

While a return to surplus has been forecast, wage growth is predicted to be sluggish.

The Wage Price Index will only increase from 2.5 per cent this year to 3.5 per cent in 2021-22.

Ms Holebrook said the slow growth suggested Australia "didn't know how to get the runs on the board" with job creation.

"In my personal opinion, Australia hasn't figured out how to create enough jobs," she said.

"But there's a growing focus and attention on it now, people are really trying to solve the problem.

"If we don't get more jobs, we don't grow economically," she said