Greek Australians on the dole are struggling with living expenses said Dimitri Bouras, a case work at the Australian Greek Welfare Society (AGWS).
“The dole increase would be good news – but if the increase is over $100. Ideally, it should be increased by $200-250. However, any increase is welcome and good, as long as it is something feasible,” said Mr Bouras.
According to Centrelink figures, single unemployed people with no children can claim up to $489.70 a fortnight, which comes to $245 a week, $35 a day.
“The current rate of unemployment payments barely covers housing and energy bills. The dole is not in proportion with rising costs of energy, the gas and electricity have become a luxury now,” he said.
Mr Bouras added that according to Centrelink figures, the current maximum rate of Newstart Allowance for single parents with dependent children is $529.80 per fortnight.
“If a person is paying rent, it’s all gone. Even in situations where they reside with their parents, these people still struggle. Imagine what happens if the person is smoker? And it’s likely for unemployed people to take up smoking,” Dimitri Bouras said.
Welfare groups called the government for a $50-a-week rise to the dole, and a Senate inquiry looking into whether it is enough money for jobseekers to live on and seek employment. Unemployment benefits barely cover the person’s transport expenses, appropriate attire, and even internet connection that a jobseeker requires.
“It’s a vicious circle. How can you search for a job opportunities properly, when you can’t dress in a manner that is professionally appropriate for a specific position, and make a good first impression on employer?” Mr Bouras said to Neos Kosmos.
Employment minister Bill Shorten signaled he will be open to a possible dole increase, after undergoing pressure from union movements and welfare groups to overhaul the welfare system.
Minister Shorten announced this week that he will not “turn his back on people struggling on the $245-a-week dole”, and that he will listen to the debate over the adequacy of the dole.
“Be in no doubt that I am up for hearing all and any views about this, including Newstart’s adequacy and the effect and distribution of the supplementary payments,” he said to Australian media.
Mr Shorten’s speech comes after his comments this week, when he said he won’t take into consideration any increase to Newstart.
“Initially our settings are that the Newstart Allowance will stay where it is for the time being,” he said in Canberra.
The joint submission – from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, the Department of Families, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Industry – seeks to gain a $50-a-week rise to the dole.