Liberal candidate for Lyons Jessica Whelan has publicly stated her support for an increase to the Newstart allowance, a view not expressed by the majority of the Coalition.
During a Lyons candidate forum broadcast live on ABC Radio on Tuesday morning, host Leon Compton asked each of the candidates for their views on whether or not the income support payment was too low.
"Would you lift the Newstart allowance, Jessica Whelan," he asked the Liberal candidate.
After a pause, Ms Whelan responded: "I would support an increase in the Newstart allowance, yes."
Ms Whelan's comments came after New South Wales Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos appeared on ABC's Q&A program earlier this year and stated that he believed Newstart was too low. Former Prime Minister John Howard has also said he thinks the payment should go up.
But, on Monday, Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher said the Coalition would not be lifting the Newstart allowance and that it would continue to be indexed to the consumer price index.
Ms Whelan qualified her comments on Tuesday afternoon, saying she'd since learned that the Coalition's energy assistance supplement, announced in the 2019-20 federal budget, would extend to Newstart recipients.
The one-off payment is being extended to some social security income support recipients. Singles eligible for the payment will receive $75, while couples will receive $125. However, the payment was not originally going to be extended to Newstart recipients and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg amended the proposal the day after the budget was handed down.
"I've since learned that [Newstart recipients] are eligible for the energy bonus from the Liberal government, which is great and addresses my concerns," Ms Whelan told The Examiner.
"I do think that people on Newstart could do with a bit more support."
Lyons Labor incumbent Brian Mitchell told Mr Compton he believed Newstart needed to be lifted but said the ALP's proposed review of Newstart was necessary "to see whether it's actually fit for purpose anymore".
"Rather than announce a headline figure now, we want to do a review into the system to make sure it's fit for purpose, see what it needs to [be] lifted by and over what period and then how do we pay for it," he said.
Lyons Nationals candidate Deanna Hutchinson agreed with Mr Mitchell that "a headline statement" on the issue would not be helpful.
"I think it's a complex issue and ... it's actually really important," she said.
Ms Whelan was contacted for comment.
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