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New Boothby MP vows to fight to raise JobSeeker rate

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Newly-elected South Australian Labor MP Louise Miller-Frost has used her maiden speech to federal parliament to continue pushing for a JobSeeker increase, despite the Albanese Government scrapping its policy to review the benefit.

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Miller-Frost told parliament this afternoon that she would “not step away” from advocating for the JobSeeker payment base rate to be lifted from $46 a day to at least $70.

The former CEO of St Vincent de Paul Society SA won the marginal southern suburbs seat of Boothby at the May election, becoming the electorate’s first Labor MP since 1949.

She is a vocal advocate for the “raise the rate campaign”, which calls on the federal government to increase the Jobseeker payment base rate from $46 a day to at least $70, as well as more frequent indexation of payments in line with wage movements.

“Many of you will know that I am a long-time campaigner for the raise the rate campaign,” Miller-Frost told parliament.

“I do not step away from that position and I am also committed to other forms of addressing cost of living issues.”

Her view contradicts the policy her party took to the election, which was to maintain the JobSeeker payment at $642.70 a fortnight for a single person.

Labor’s former leader Bill Shorten in 2019 promised to set up an independent review of the allowance, then called Newstart, hinting that it would lead to an increase.

But in April, the party ditched the policy, promising to instead focus on broader cost-of-living pressures and social housing.

In an opinion piece published in InDaily last year, Miller-Frost argued increasing the JobSeeker base rate would be a “circuit-breaker” that could “lift families and individuals out of poverty”.

Poverty was a key theme of her maiden speech, with the social services advocate reflecting on her Northern Irish great-grandmother’s experience “scrubbing floors and pawning her wedding ring to feed the family”.

She said cost of living was “one of the major issues” in Boothby, with those on low incomes impacted the most.

“The very significant benefits of this wonderful country are not shared fairly,” she said.

“My family taught me about the importance of working hard to get ahead, but also the importance of social equity.

“Too often government does not create the conditions, the opportunities for all of its citizens to flourish.

“Indeed, it creates conditions that push some people down, holds them down, makes life as difficult as it can be.

It punishes them for not being enough, for not being able to overcome the disadvantage they may have been born into, or may have experienced in their lives. 

“Too often, past governments have actively and deliberately pushed people into poverty.”

New South Wales Labor MP Andrew Charlton has also publicly backed an increase to the JobSeeker payment, telling the National Press Club last year that doing so “made good economic sense and was the right thing to do”.

The JobSeeker payment was temporarily doubled during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has since returned to its usual rate.

In April last year the Morrison Government increased the base rate by $50 a fortnight, but advocates argue it is still well below poverty lines.

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