It shouldn’t be this hard to admit Newstart is too low.

Anne Ruston speaking with David Speers on Sky News, Sunday, 1 September 2019

 DAVID SPEERS: The government continues to resist calls to increase the rate of the Newstart allowance, which is currently $39.70 a day, if you’re a single. Minister  can you explain how this is enough for feeding, clothing, housing themselves, getting to and from job interviews and so on?

 ANNE RUSTON: Look, nobody has ever said that living on Newstart would be easy. But one of the things that this government is absolutely committed to do is that everything we can for anybody who’s on Newstart  to get them off Newstart and into a job. And I think it’s incumbent on government to much more than just provide a safety net payment. We need to create jobs and I think our track record of creating jobs is a very good one. But it’s not just that. It’s creating the pathways. But most importantly, helping people breakdown the barriers they currently have to be able to get work. And that’s what we’re absolutely focused on.

 SPEERS: But a part of breaking down those barriers, does mean being healthy, being able to present yourself with a job interview and so on. As you say, it’s not easy. But critics say it’s not possible to live properly on Newstart, to be prepared for those job interviews to make that transition back into the workforce.

 RUSTON: Well many of the programs that are in place help people with those sorts of things: making sure that they’ve got appropriate CVs; that they understand how to go to a job interview; providing them with, in many cases, the appropriate clothing so that they can go to interviews. It is absolutely essential that we provide people with pathways and breaking down the barriers for them to get a job. Because they’re not going to get out of their disadvantage cycle that they’re in without them being able to get employment, and that’s what we’re focused on and will remain focused on.

 SPEERS: What about the basics? Putting food on the table and heating on during the winter? Are you saying that Newstart is adequate to pay for this?

 RUSTON: Look, I have not said it would be easy to live on Newstart  -

 SPEERS: But is it adequate? Is it possible?

 RUSTON: Well, as I said, it wouldn’t be easy. It’s a safety net payment. It never was meant to be a replacement for a wage or a salary. It is there as a safety net to assist people while they haven’t got a job. But we will make sure that our investment is in making sure we get them a job.

 SPEEERS: I’m just trying to establish though, it should be enough is your view – it should be enough to cover the basics?

 RUSTONS: As I said, we are absolutely focused on making sure that people get away from having to rely on that safety net, get a job so that they can actually earn more money.

 SPEERS: But I’m asking you if it is enough.

 RUSTON: Well, as I said, the purpose of our program is very much about getting people off Newstart and into a job –

 SPEERS: No, I appreciate that. I’m just wondering is there a reluctance to say whether this payment Newstart is enough to live on.

 RUSTON: Look, I’ve said it and I’ve said it earlier. It would not be easy to live on Newstart. I’m not shying away from that. And that’s why I am focused, as is the government, to make sure that we get people off Newstart.

 SPEERS: Ok, but it is possible to live on this?

 RUSTON: I think I’ve answered the question.

 SPEERS: Well, with respect Minister, you’ve said it’s not easy but I’m just – it’s pretty straight forward – is Newstart enough to live on?

 RUSTON: Look, I have answered the question and I absolutely remain totally committed to helping anybody who’s on Newstart who wants a job to get a job.

 SPEERS: Ok, but you’ve not said whether it’s enough to live on. Just to be clear.

 RUSTON: I’ve said it wouldn’t be easy to live on Newstart.

 SPEERS: Alright, we’ll move on.