Centrelink recipients could be handed a boost as calls grow to cut Opal fees for people on the dole – and the rest of us will be paying for it
- Social services groups are pushing the creation of a Newstart Opal card in NSW
- They want a $2.50 a day cap on public transport for all Newstart recipients
- But the government currently has no plans to change Opal prices for Newstart
Social services groups are pushing for the NSW Government to create a Newstart Opal card to benefit those on unemployment benefits.
If the push gets the go ahead, those on Newstart allowance who live on $277 a week would have a cap of $2.50 per day for public transport – similar to the current Gold Opal for pensioners.
The NSW Council of Social Services said people on the dole are living on the same amount of money as pensioners, and argued their Opal fares should reflect that.
‘Not having enough money to move around to access employment opportunities is an insurmountable one,’ the peak body said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
If the push gets the go ahead, those on Newstart allowance who live on $277 a week would have a cap of $2.50 per day for public transport – similar to the current Gold Opal for pensioners (stock)
‘Providing deeper concessions to the costs of transport for people living below the poverty line could make a big difference.’
The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal is reviewing Opal fares over the next four years.
But Transport Minister Andrew Constance said that because taxpayers heavily fund public transport fares, there is currently no plan to lessen the cost for Newstart recipients.
‘Newstart, as a program, is designed to act as a transition payment for people to go from being unemployed to a new job,’ he said.
Over one in four of the 200,000 people on Newstart are aged between 55 and 64, with the Combined Pensioners and Superannuates Association saying public transport costs are at ‘crisis point’.
Opal concession cards are available for welfare recipients which currently caps public transport fares to $8 a day or $25 a week.
But recipients who do one day of casual work are no longer entitled to a silver concession card.
If they find themselves without a job again, they must go through the application process for the concession card again, and pay normal fares until their new card arrives in the mail.
Opal concession cards are available for welfare recipients which currently caps public transport fares to $8 a day or $25 a week (stock image)
The Scott Morrison government has resisted mounting calls to increase the Newstart rate.
Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe said last week that raising it would be more effective to stimulate the economy in the short term than cutting taxes for high-income earners.
‘There are a myriad of different fiscal policies that can stimulate the economy,’ Senator Ruston said.
She said tax changes and government spending, including $100 billion on infrastructure, were two examples of how the government was tackling the economy’s sluggish growth.