A comparison of Party policies on income security by the National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW), has put the Australian Greens ahead of the two major parties in addressing poverty, particularly as it relates to sole parents and the unemployed.
As part of the national women’s alliances Women-Use your Vote Project the NFAW has compared and contrasted the policies of the Australian Labor Party (ALP), the Liberal National Party (LNP) and the Australian Greens, relating to Family Tax Benefits, Newstart Allowance and Parenting Payments.
The NFAW commended the Australian Greens for having more appropriate policy settings to assist jobseekers, particularly sole parents and called on the other parties to address the issue of poverty among sole parent families.
Family Tax Benefits
The structure of the Family Tax Benefit is regarded as opaque and complex as a consequence of the multiple policy goals that the system is designed to address. The primary goals recognise that families face additional costs, and that low income families need additional assistance (FTBA); and to support families that choose to have the carer remain out of the workforce (FTBB). However, the consequence of this structure is that families face multiple taper rates and points, depending on the income of the family and the secondary earner in the family. This effect is compounded if the family is receiving other means tested benefits, and is also paying child care fees.
- Labor Party: Introduced a Means Test on Family Tax Benefit Part B (FTBB) and the Baby Bonus. Paused indexation of FTBA upper income test and rates
- Liberal Party: Abolish the Schoolkids bonus as it is not related to education costs. The LNP supported legislation to roll Baby Bonus into FTBA
- The Greens: Expressed concern that Baby Bonus changes would impact on low income families.
The current single rate of Newstart is a maximum of $497 pf, or $35 per day; or $537 pf for a single person with at least one child. It is widely accepted by business as well as within the community sector that this rate is inadequate, and not only forces the recipient into poverty but also impairs the job-readiness of the recipient. Recipients are entitled to earn up to $100 per fortnight before the amount of the payment is reduced: then it reduces by 50c for each additional dollar earned. Recipients are also required to meet an activity test to show that they are actively seeking work.
- Labor Party: Increased the amount a person can earn before Newstart is reduced from $61 to $100 per fortnight.
- Liberal Party: Job Commitment Bonus for long term unemployed who obtain work and remain in work for 12 and 24 months. Mandatory and tighter work for the dole requirements for recipients under 50. Suspend payments to recipients under 30 where unskilled work is readily available. Job creation package announced for Tasmania.
- The Greens: $50 per week increase to the single rate of Newstart and the Youth Allowance single living away from home rate. Better indexation of all allowance payments that reflects the changes to the cost of living for these households. Better job services for everyone that help people into suitable, secure work and an enforceable right to ask for flexible working conditions, for single parents and carers.
In Australia the risk of sole parent families being in poverty is more than double that of two parent families. Sole parents may be eligible for income support through the Parenting Payment, which is significantly more generous than Newstart in several areas.
- Labor Party: Extended policy limiting Parenting Payments to sole parents with a child under eight years of age, applying the policy to parents who remained eligible under the 2006 changes. Increased the amount a person can earn before Newstart is reduced from $61 to $100 per fortnight. Pensioner Education Supplement extended to sole parents receiving Newstart and Pensioner Concession Card available for 12 weeks after eligibility for Parenting Payment ceases. Some flexibility in the application of the activity test to parents.
- Liberal Party: Introduced 2006 policy to limit Parenting Payment to sole parents with a child under eight years of age but existing recipients retained eligibility.
- The Greens: Additional $40 per week supplement for all single parents on Newstart, which together with the $50 increase to Newstart reverses the impact of the parenting payment cuts and will immediately help lift single parents out of poverty. A higher income free threshold for single parents that allows them to earn the same as they did on Parenting Payment Single.
For more information visit the National Foundation for Australian Women website at: www.nfaw.org