National

Regional Aussies hurt by welfare changes

By AAP Newswire

Rural Australians will be hardest hit by the Morrison government's revived proposal to make unemployed people wait longer before they can apply for welfare.

Department of Social Services figures separated into federal electorates show that of the 10 areas where most Australians are on Newstart, six are in regional areas.

Of the top 20, 11 are in regional Australia.

The Morrison government is attempting to make changes to social security in a bid to save more than $290 million over the forward estimates.

One of the three changes in a bill - now set for the Senate - would make Australians wait up to six months before applying for some welfare payments, if they have $18,000 or more in liquid assets.

For couples, the figure is $36,000.

Labor's social services spokeswoman Linda Burney is hopeful the bill won't pass, and will speak to Pauline Hanson's One Nation about the proposal.

Ms Burney says the profile of someone on Newstart isn't in line with public perception, with most recipients over the age of 45.

"(The changes) are going to bite in places where it's really difficult to get re-employed if you're slightly older and lose employment, that's the danger of this," she told AAP.

"Imagine a couple who have $36,000 in the bank, three kids, an old car, who have to re-train or move house, or someone gets sick. That's all there is between you and destitution.

"And destitution therefore creates other expenses, it's this rolling mess of ill-thought through policies and lack of communication between portfolios."

Asked if people were turning to gig-economy jobs, Ms Burney said: "Of course, what alternative have they got."

The Labor-held electorate of Lingiari in the Northern Territory has the most people on Newstart, with more than 11,400 people.

It's followed by Labor-held Spence in SA, the Liberal-National Party's Leichhardt in Queensland, with Liberal-held SA seat Grey and WA's Durack rounding out the top five.

Centre Alliance is unhappy with the bill in its current form, with the party's lone MP Rebekha Sharkie saying the party is willing to negotiate with the government to improve it.

Ms Sharkie says the party, which has two crucial votes in the Senate, doesn't think people should be penalised for having savings when they become unemployed.

The government says the changes are necessary to ensure the welfare system is sustainable, and so Australians who need the most support can get it.

ELECTORATES WITH MOST PEOPLE ON NEWSTART

1. Lingiari, NT - 11,482 - Labor

2. Spence, SA: 11,040 - Labor

3. Leichhardt, Qld: 9160 - LNP

4. Grey, SA: 9032 - Liberal

5. Durack, WA: 8932 - Liberal

6. Fowler, NSW: 8557 - Labor

7. Kennedy, Qld: 8191 - Katter

8. Calwell, VIC: 7978 - Labor

9. Fraser, VIC: 7429 - Nationals

10. Page, NSW: 7429 - Nationals

Source: Department of Social Services demographics June 2019