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Boosting welfare would just go to ‘drug dealers, pubs’: Minister

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston has said Newstart increases would only be spent on drugs and alcohol. Images: Getty

Increasing the Newstart payment would only mean recipients would spend the money on drugs and alcohol, the social services minister has said.

As a senate committee conducts a review into the adequacy of current Newstart payments amid calls from all sides of the political spectrum to raise the rate, Coalition minister Anne Ruston said the government will not move on increasing the unemployment benefit payment.

Speaking to a single mothers' forum, Ruston said increasing Newstart was an overly simplistic solution that wouldn’t address the root problems, the Murray Valley Standard reported.

"We can't just keep on adding money to this bucket, because we're not making a difference," she said.

"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."

Politicians such as Barnaby Joyce, businesspeople like Dick Smith and dozens of social welfare groups, along with the Greens and Labor have all called for the rate of Newstart payments to be increased by $75, up from $559 a week.

The Australian Council of Social Services said the level of the allowance “now sits well below the poverty line”.

And according to recent analysis, Australians receiving Newstart have less than $100 to live on a week after paying for rent.

But speaking to Sky News on Wednesday, Ruston doubled down on the comments, saying that spending more money without getting “any better result” is the wrong approach.

"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,” she said.

"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."

Her comments come as the Coalition government considers increasingly strict eligibility measures, including demands that recipients undertake drug tests.

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