Dawson MP George Christensen said he would support an increase to the fortnightly payment with one condition. Picture: Hollie Adams/News Corp Australia
Dawson MP George Christensen said he would support an increase to the fortnightly payment with one condition. Picture: Hollie Adams/News Corp Australia

MP supports dole increase under one condition

CONSERVATIVE politician George Christensen says he would support an increase to the "dole" payment under one condition.

The Dawson MP's comments come as hospitality businesses across the region say the JobSeeker payment is making it a struggle to hire new staff.

Formerly called NewStart, the welfare payment was set at $40 a day. In March it was doubled and renamed JobSeeker as the coronavirus pandemic escalated.

Mr Christensen said his support for increasing the payment after the coronavirus supplement stops was hinged on cashless welfare cards.

"I don't want to see the dole become an entrenched payment people stay on (or) a payment system which really takes away from going out and getting a job," he said.

"The second thing is that I do not want to see misuse of money for illegal purposes.

"As controversial as it is, if we increase the payment, the quid pro quo would be on the basis of a (welfare) card."

In January, a study by the Australian Council of Social Service found the Newstart unemployment benefit covered only three-quarters of recipients' basic needs.

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The premise of the cashless welfare debit card is to reduce the amount of cash available in a community to curb alcohol, gambling and drug misuse.

Mr Christensen said he supported the concept as it would help avoid harm in communities "susceptible" to drug and alcohol misuse.

"The problem is we know that among unemployed people … there is a higher level of substance abuse and that is not conducive to a good society or finding a job," he said.

"If you want an increase you take the card option, if you don't want the card, go on the regular payment."

Linda Burney after Question Time in the House of Representatives Chamber, at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture Kym Smith
Linda Burney after Question Time in the House of Representatives Chamber, at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture Kym Smith

Federal opposition Families and Social Services spokeswoman Linda Burney said she did not support the cashless welfare card.

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"George Christensen joins a growing number of people inside the LNP who are finally admitting that unemployment payments will be simply too low if the government takes them all the way back down to the old rate in September," she said.

"Almost two million Australians on unemployment payments are anxious about what support will be available to them after September - the government needs to be investing in jobs and adequate support, not threatening them with a card the independent Auditor General found no evidence to support."



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