Northern Territory Council of Social Service

NT income boosted by $58m per year if Newstart and Youth Allowance rates are raised, plus much needed cost of living relief to low-income Territorians

The 21st NTCOSS Cost of Living Report released today, coincides with the release earlier this week of a report by Deloitte Access Economics, commissioned by ACOSS.

The Deloitte report found that increasing the base rate of Newstart and Youth Allowance by $75 per week will boost wellbeing in regional communities doing it the toughest, lifting the incomes of people most in need, as well as delivering 12,000 new jobs across the country.

Jonathan Pilbrow, NTCOSS Policy Adviser said,
“Raising the rate of these allowances would represent great news for the NT as a whole and for many low-income households. It would boost spending on locally produced goods and services, and mean higher takings in local cash registers, strengthening local wages and jobs”

If Newstart and Youth Allowance had been increased on 1 July this year it would have boosted the NT’s overall income by $58 Million in the 2018-19 financial year, representing the increase in disposable income that would have become available. All regions in the NT would benefit.

Many prominent organisations and individuals have come out in support of raising the rate of Newstart, including the NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner this week.

The NTCOSS Report highlights that for people on Newstart and Youth Allowance, the rise in the cost of living over the past year has outstripped the rise in their payments. This is a particular issue for sole parents with children and reinforces the need to ‘raise the rate’ of allowances.

People on these payments in the NT are hit with a ‘triple whammy’:

  • Their payments are between $176 and $227 lower than a pension and indexed at a lower rate
  • They are faced with high NT living costs (e.g. food, rent), compared to the rest of Australia
  • They are ineligible for ‘cost of living concessions’ (e.g. electricity), whereas other states/ACT make these available to all health care card holders

The NTCOSS report showed that, in particular, household expenses like petrol costs (+16.5%), insurance (+4.4%), childcare (+4.0%) gas and other household fuels (+3.9%) have all risen in the Darwin over the past year. Regional data shows increased petrol costs across all NT regions.

There has been a slight increase in the generic CPI for Darwin (+1.2%), in contrast to the increase in the national CPI (+2.1%) over the past year.

Mr Pilbrow said,
“The Prices of some critical expenditure items, such as petrol, have continued to rise well above the rate of the generic CPI figure for Darwin and nationally figure

“But there have been decreases in some categories in the past year – audio, visual and computing equipment (-11.1%), vegetables (-10.3%) and rent prices (-5.0%) are down

“The CPI rent decrease is welcome relief for some, particularly given that rent prices in Darwin have been historically high and many rental households have experienced housing stress”.

Regional data shows that the rent decreases have also been seen in Palmerston, but in Alice Springs, and for some house types in Katherine, rent prices have actually increased.

The NTCOSS report also highlights that some groups formerly eligible for the previous NT Pensioner Carer Concession Scheme – i.e. Low-Income Health Care Card holders, people on Carers Allowance, are not eligible for the new NT Concession Scheme because of new eligibility criteria. NTCOSS believes that further reforms around eligibility are warranted.

Read the NTCOSS Cost of Living Report No. 21
Read the Cost of Living Fact Sheets – Fuel and General

For further information/media comment:
Jonathan Pilbrow – Policy Adviser, NTCOSS 0403 611 815