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‘It’s overdue:’ Aussie millionaire Dick Smith joins Newstart debate

Dick Smith has thrown his weight behind the campaign to increase Newstart. Images: Getty

Australian millionaire businessman Dick Smith has thrown his weight behind the campaign to increase Newstart payments, slamming the government as “dragging its feet”.

In an opinion piece for The Australian, the founder of the Dick Smith electronics retail empire questioned how Australians could “have a go” on $40 a day.

“It’s not enough to feed and house a person, let alone to look presentable for job interviews or pay for the bus ticket or fuel to get to them,” he said.

“I’m told that people have to skip meals, sleep rough, wear worn, old clothes — nobody wants to live like that, and they shouldn’t have to in a country such as Australia.”

He said those on Newstart are looking for work, but a difficult job market doesn’t make things easy.

“Amazingly, half of those on Newstart are over 45 [years old]. Many have decades of experience but get rejection after rejection in the modern jobs market,” he said.

“Then there are young people who can’t get a go because they don’t have much experience and the low-skilled jobs are drying up as automation takes hold.”

Accusing the government of “dragging its heels”, Smith said an increase to the payment was “isn’t just urgent, it’s overdue”.

“Raising Newstart by $75 a week would cost $3 billion a year — that’s less than a third of the cost of the government’s tax cuts for high-income earners. In fact, wealthy people like me could easily pay additional tax to cover the $3 billion required.”

Smith, who has an estimated net worth of $60 million, last month described it as “ridiculous” that he received $500,000 in franking credits in a single year, given his huge wealth.

"I found I was getting this ridiculous money from the government.

"That's wrong, I said - I'm wealthy. My accountant said 'that's how it works, that's what you have to do'. I can't stop it. I think it's outrageous for wealthy people to be getting money from the government."

In November last year, the millionaire entrepreneur said he was considering running for government, after saying he was frustrated by what was happening in Canberra.

Now, Smith joins Labor, the Greens, Barnaby Joyce and Bob Katter in calling for an increase to the payment. The Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Council of Social Services have also been vocal in calling for the payment - which hasn’t increased in real terms since 1994 - to be boosted by $75.

However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the government will not be increasing Newstart.

“I’m not going to lead people on about this. You ask me ‘Are we increasing Newstart?’ Well the answer is ‘No, we are not’,” he said last week.

“They believe the best form of welfare is a job and they believe that our welfare system should work as much for taxpayers as it does for those who benefit from it.”

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