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Higher dole payments would go to "drug dealers, pubs": Minister

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Social Services Minister Anne Ruston has told a Murray Bridge audience that raising the Newstart allowance would do “absolutely nothing” but likely give more money to pubs and drug dealers.

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The SA senator and minister responsible for families, welfare and the unemployed made the comment while at a forum attended by about 40 people last Wedneday night, at which the National Council of Single Mothers head Terese Edwards also spoke.

As reported by the Murray Valley Standard’s Peri Strathearn, debate included the low rate of Newstart and its impact on single mothers – particularly those taken off the single parenting payment when their children turned eight.

There are growing calls for Newstart payments to rise after barely budging for 25 years.

Ruston told the forum that 35 per cent of taxpayer spending went on welfare and increasing Newstart was not an answer.

“We can’t just keep on adding money to this bucket, because we’re not making a difference,” she was reported as saying.

“Giving (people) more money would do absolutely nothing … probably all it would do is give drug dealers more money and give pubs more money.

“What we need to do is take a proactive approach to how we look at social welfare, look at social cohorts and what those cohorts need.

“We’ve got to be fair to the people who pay for it.”

Ruston has since told media that her remarks were made in the context of addressing individual barriers to employment.

“If somebody has an alcohol addiction giving them extra money on Newstart is more likely to result in that money being spent in a hotel,” Ruston told Sky News.

“Giving more money to somebody who finds themselves in a position of isolation is not going to prevent their isolation.

“We need to come up with more inventive and innovative ways to deal with the barriers people find themselves (facing) in going into the workplace.

“Just constantly spending more money and not getting any better result is not the right thing for us to be doing.

“We need to make sure that we investigate every possible way that we can start getting a better result for getting people back into work.”

Ruston said she was focused on creating job opportunities, while helping welfare recipients with substance abuse or social isolation issues.

“I think the issue around people who currently find themselves unemployed is much more complex than just the safety net that is provided by the Australian government’s taxpayer-funded welfare system,” she said.

“There’s a lot more that we as a government need to do.”

-with AAP

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