Bill Shorten Just Gave Strongest Indication Yet He Will Increase Centrelink Payments

The Newstart payment is "too low", Labor leader Bill Shorten has admitted, signalling that a government he leads will boost the below-poverty allowance after May 18.

Newstart, which pays just $277 a week for a single person, has been under the microscope for years due to zero increase in real terms since the 1990s.

Charities, social advocates and leading economists have made the case for a significant boost to the payment -- which they say would lift people closer to the national poverty line, and be a significant boost to the economy.

Bill Shorten and Tony Jones. Image: ABC/ Q&A

The Coalition has flatly refused to top up the payment beyond inflation, and Labor has been under pressure to commit to a tangible boost to Newstart.

Social advocates have pushed for the payment to be increased by $50 or $75 a week. Labor has only committed to a "review" of Newstart, and has resisted tying itself to an increase.

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In a special episode of Q&A on the ABC on Monday night, Shorten gave his strongest indication yet that Labor would be inclined to significantly address Newstart.

"It is too low," Shorten said bluntly, in response to a video question from an older woman who said she lived solely on Newstart and other government assistance, and had to borrow money from family to keep a roof over her head.

"I think common sense says that a review is going to conclude that amount is too low. I won't pre-empt it but I'm not having a review to cut it."

At the ALP election campaign launch in Brisbane on Sunday, Shorten announced that Labor would grant tax deductions to small businesses that employed younger or older unemployed people, in a bid to decrease unemployment rates in those age groups. He flagged that policy again in response to the Q&A question, saying many older Australians had been "been dislocated by change and no-one will give them a job".

"The times I've seen well-dressed people, immaculately presented, they have their CV in a plastic sleeve and you can see the sting of rejection in their eyes," Shorten said.

"They say, "Why doesn't anyone want to give us a go?" We have put a specific measure on the table which will reward companies from investing in older people."

When drawn specifically back to Newstart, Shorten resisted committing to an increase, but signalled strongly toward the review leading to that outcome. He hinted that an increase in welfare payments could be paid for by Labor's plan to wind back negative gearing concessions.

"We're spending $35 billion in the next 10 years to help subsidise property investors who haven't even bought their property yet, yet we can't find enough to help Lillian who has been working at 61 on the rougher end of change. It's about priorities," Shorten said.

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