The federal government is considering trimming welfare spending in an effort repair the budget bottom line.
As Q&A panellists debated welfare reform, the founder and chief executive of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Kon Karapanagiotidis, said on Twitter that what a politician can claim for one night for staying in Canberra for work is equivalent to an entire week on Newstart.
Is that true?
Checking the source
When asked for a source to support his assertion, Karapanagiotidis directed The Conversation to a recent News.com.au article.
You can read his full response here.
We can independently test Karapanagiotidis’s original statement against publicly available data.
How much can a politician claim for a night in Canberra for work?
The travel allowances for members of parliament are set out here on the Department of Finance website.
The rate depends on where you are travelling from. Since August 2015, for those travelling from locations within a 30 km radius of Parliament House, the rate is $273 for an overnight stay.
The legislation underpinning this is the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990.
How much is a week of Newstart worth?
By comparison, the Newstart benefit rates are set out here on the Department of Social Services website.
As outlined in this recent FactCheck, the single rate for Newstart is currently $527.60 per fortnight. The rate for a lone parent is $570.80 per fortnight and the partnered rate is $476.40 per fortnight.
So if you compare the flat rate for travelling overnight within Canberra ($273) to the Newstart single rate of $527.60 per fortnight ($263.80 per week), Karapanagiotidis was right, it is an equivalent amount.
Kon Karapanagiotidis was correct. In fact, a politician can claim slightly more in travel allowance for one night’s stay in Canberra than a single person can claim for an entire week on Newstart allowance. – Yee-Fui Ng
I read the figures for the travel allowance on the Department of Finance website as applying to the places where you travel to and not where you travel from. However, this still means that if parliamentarians travel to within 30 kilometres of Parliament House, they receive $273 per night (and if they travel to central Sydney they can receive $400 per night).
The basic rate of Newstart is correct. However, in addition, a single person aged 60 or over, after nine continuous months on payment, also receives up to $570.80 per fortnight. Currently, recipients are very likely to receive two extra payments – the Income Support Bonus and the Energy Supplement.
However, the Income Support Supplement will cease to be paid next month and it is reported that the Energy Supplement will be abolished in the omnibus budget bill to be introduced in parliament this week.
There are a range of supplementary payments that Newstart recipients may receive depending on their circumstances – for example, Rent Assistance – but this provides only a fraction of what people actually pay in rent.
So it is correct that the basic rates of Newstart, except for payments for lone parents and older long-term recipients, are less than the travel allowance for a one night stay in Canberra. – Peter Whiteford