Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed Tuesday that the JobSeeker rate will be raised by $50 a fortnight from April 1, after the government phases out its coronavirus supplement. The new JobSeeker rate will therefore start at $615.70 a fortnight, equating to less than $44 a day.
“We are now confident that at the end of next month our social safety net can once again be able to provide the support it needs to Australians as we come out of the Covid-19 recession, for that social safety net to be there for them if they find themselves without work,” he said in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
“But we’ve also formed the view that the base level of support that exists within our social safety net needs to be adjusted for the long term… and that will lead to an increase of $50 per fortnight in that base payment.
“It is true that it is the single-largest increase in the JobSeeker payment since the mid-’80s, year-on-year, that is true.”
The coronavirus supplement of $150 a fortnight, which has been paid on top of the current $565.70 JobSeeker payment, will be withdrawn at the end of March. At the height of the pandemic, Aussies on welfare payments were receiving an extra $550 a fortnight, but the government reduced that amount in September last year to $250 a fortnight and then again in December.
The decision has already been met with harsh criticism online. Greens leader Adam Bandt tweeted on Tuesday that “it’s a bloody insult”. “An extra $50 a fortnight in JobSeeker isn’t a raise,” he wrote. “That’s $3.57 a day. It’s a bloody insult. This decision will keep people going hungry. It will keep unemployed people facing homelessness. Morrison has chosen all this. We must raise the rate above the poverty line.”
Greens senator Rachel Siewert also tweeted, “A $50 fortnight increase to JobSeeker is a joke. Tightening mutual obligations in the midst of a pandemic and a recession is just abject cruelty. It’s the most vulnerable who lose their payments in this punitive system.”
Meanwhile, the national consumer body for older Australians, the Council on the Ageing (COTA), has welcomed the rate increase, but says it’s not enough to prevent job seekers, including thousands of older Australians, falling into poverty.
“Any permanent increase to JobSeeker is good news for unemployed Australians,” Ian Yates, Chief Executive of COTA Australia, said in a statement on Tuesday. “However, the need for a substantial rise in the unemployment payment is more urgent than an ever given the COVID pandemic. In March last year we called for a permanent $150 per fortnight increase to the payment, and that is still what’s needed for people to meet the basic costs of living.”
The rate increase comes just a few weeks after former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce called on the Morrison government to permanently increase the JobSeeker rate once coronavirus supplements are withdrawn, telling The Australian earlier this month he could not live on the current fortnightly welfare payment of $715.70.
“I would never be so bold to say I could live on $715 a fortnight,” Joyce told the publication. “If your rent is $250 a week, cheap rent is $300-400 a week, you won’t get by on that. You’d have to be living with other people.”
It’s a frank admission from the politician who once cried poor despite earning a staggering $211,000 yearly salary. In July 2019, Joyce told The Courier Mail that he was spread so thin he had to turn off his heater at night to save money – and considered a cup of coffee a treat.
“I’m not crying in my beer because there are thousands, thousands doing it much tougher than me. It’s not that I’m not getting money it’s just that it’s spread so thin,” he told the news outlet. “I’m just saying these circumstances have made me more vastly attuned … it’s just a great exercise in humility going from deputy prime minister to watching every dollar you get.”
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