Doctors call for rise in dole as people are struggling

by | Jul 25, 2019

AMA president Dr Tony Bartone says the low level of allowance is causing ‘significant stress’


Doctors have weighed in on the need to lift the dole, saying people on the Newstart allowance are experiencing “significant stress”.

The Morrison Government has repeatedly refused to consider lifting Newstart other than its six-monthly changes linked to the rate of inflation.

This is despite a growing chorus of welfare and business groups, economists, unions and politicians on both sides of the divide — including former prime minister John Howard — calling for a decent increase for the first time in 25 years.

“People on that allowance are experiencing significant stress … and that must have a health impact on their wellbeing,” AMA president Tony Bartone (pictured) told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

“Clearly, if they are struggling, clearly, if it is insufficient to meet their needs, certainly from a health perspective, it makes sense to increase it.”

Dr Bartone’s comments came as Labor accused a government minister of intervening to stop a parliamentary committee calling for a Newstart increase.

Then social services minister Paul Fletcher asked a bipartisan committee to alter an April report to remove a recommendation to lift unemployment benefits, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on Tuesday.

The doctoring allegation came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned his backbenchers against publicly speaking out on issues that the Coalition did not take to the election, including lifting Newstart.

Liberal MP Russel Broadbent, who chaired that parliamentary committee, was among the government backbenchers to have broken ranks by arguing that the Newstart allowance was too low.

“It seems almost everybody in this country, except Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg, know that Newstart is inadequate,” Opposition Treasurer Jim Chalmers told reporters.

“The reason why we’re calling on the government to review and increase Newstart is because it’s necessary to alleviate poverty, to get people in a position to find a job but also good for the economy.”