Living rough gave insight to candidate

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VideoAustralian Greens leader Richard Di Natale warned of a Federal Election fought over fear and greed at the launch of the WA Greens campaign in Perth

Experience of homelessness isn’t ordinarily found on the resume of a Federal election hopeful, but O’Connor’s Greens candidate Nelson Blake Gilmour says he sees it as an advantage.

Rather than being a blemish, Mr Gilmour said the experience of living rough in New Zealand during an 18-month stay in the country helped him understand how to help those worse off.

“My partner and I at the time lived in a tent for a few months,” he said.

“We worked full-time but ... were caught in a cycle of short-term thinking where you’re living pay cheque to pay cheque wondering where your next meal will come from.

“When you’re stuck in that cycle, poverty feeds back on itself.”

Mr Gilmour, 29, put his support behind a Greens Bill tabled in Parliament last week, which called for an increase to Newstart, Youth Allowance and other support payments by $150 a fortnight.

The Denmark-raised candidate said the increase could change the lives of Australians living on or below the poverty line, and dismissed suggestions that increasing welfare was akin to “just handing over cash willy-nilly”.

“It’s about helping people out of that vicious cycle,” he said.

About 9000 West Australians experienced homelessness in 2016, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and Mr Gilmour said 4 million Australians experienced food insecurity this year.

The proposal to increase social support payments is supported by a September report by Deloitte Access Economics, which claimed increasing weekly payments by $75 would support those most in need, as well as create 12,000 new jobs Australia-wide.

However, following the report’s release, O’Connor MP Rick Wilson has pushed back on the proposal and called the current rates “adequate”.

“As Prime Minister Scott Morrison said recently, welfare works as a trampoline, not as a snare, aimed to give people a hand up, not a handout,” he said.

“The advice to the Government has been that the current rates of Newstart and Youth Allowance are adequate to help people cover their basic living costs when they experience financial difficulty.”

Research released in May by the Salvation Army found the average Newstart recipient lived on just $17 a day after accommodation expenses.

Update: A previous version of this story said Mr Gilmour was born in Denmark. That is incorrect. Mr Gilmour was born in Subiaco.

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