The two main extra payments received by Newstart recipients are Commonwealth Rent Assistance and the Energy Supplement. For simplicity, we will examine only the rate for a single person under 60 years of age, living independently, without dependants. The maximum rate of benefit is used in each instance.

 

Newstart

Commonwealth Rent Assistance

Energy Supplement

Total

Henderson Poverty Line Sept Quarter 2017

Rate per fortnight

$545.80

$134.80

$8.80

$689.40

$1,023.50

Rate per day

$38.99

$9.63

$0.63c

$49.25

$73.11

 

To receive the maximum rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance you would need to be paying $299.93 a fortnight in rent, which means that you would still have to pay $165.13 out of the Newstart Allowance for rent or more if your rent was higher. This would leave you $389.47 per fortnight for other living expenses or $27.82 per day, less if your rent was higher.

Newstart recipients would generally be eligible for a Low Income Health Care Card. The benefits of the card include cheaper medicine under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, bulk billed doctor visits (though this is up to the doctor), and a larger refund for medical costs when the Medicare Safety Net is reached.

A small number of Newstart recipients also receive the Mobility Allowance. However, this payment is only available for people who cannot use public transport without a lot of help, have a disability, illness or injury, and need to travel for study, training, work or to look for work.

Other payments for people in special circumstances that incur extra costs include Telephone Allowance ($28.80 per quarter), Remote Area Allowance ($18.20 per fortnight), Pharmaceutical Allowance ($6.20 per fortnight) and the Language, Literary and Numeracy Supplement ($20.80 per fortnight).

In summary, yes, there are extra payments and supplements that people on Newstart Allowance can receive, but they do not increase the overall payments received to an adequate level. Furthermore, the main extra payment, the Commonwealth Rent Allowance would need to be substantially increased if it were to realistically offset the cost of private rental accommodation. For income to just reach the Henderson Poverty Line, either the allowances or extras would need to be increased by a further $24.86 per day. The Henderson Poverty Line has been the standard used by researchers to gauge progress in the community since the 1970s.