JobSeeker payments are set to rise by just over $3 a day in the largest permanent increase in the unemployment benefit since the mid-1980s.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement today, Tuesday 23 February, means the rate will rise by $50 a fortnight from 1 April. He said the increase puts the “JobSeeker payment at 41.2% of the minimum wage, which is commensurate with what it was during the Howard Government.”
“We are now confident at the end of next month that 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,” he said.
“We are moving from short-term emergency measures to long-term arrangements that people can rely on should they find themselves out of work.”
The ACT Government has condemned the announcement and called on the Federal Government to “do more” and commit to further increases in JobSeeker to make “a more sustainable, liveable and permanent rate above the poverty line”.
“Low levels of social security payments are the major cause of poverty for unemployed people and people on Youth Allowance and related payments, not just in Canberra but across Australia,” said ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr.
Emma Davidson, ACT Minister for Disability and Assistant Minister for Family and Community Services, said “the Federal Government’s extra $50 a fortnight to JobSeeker does not cut it”.
“The Federal Government needs to substantially and permanently raise the rate to decrease poverty and increase social inclusion,” Ms Davidson said.
“We have seen that they can prioritise supporting those most in need when they raised the rate during 2020. What they prioritise now will make an immediate and lasting difference to the lives of so many Canberrans. It is not acceptable to make the choice to leave people in poverty.”
ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell, called the announcement a “heartless betrayal” for those that need the payments.
“As of January 2021, there were 12,292 Canberrans receiving income support while looking for work. This is almost double the figure of 12 months ago.
“Already, at $51 a day with the temporary Coronavirus Supplement, people on JobSeeker are being forced to choose between housing, food, medications, basic toiletries and paying bills … Now, at the end of next month, they will be expected to struggle on even less,” Dr Campbell said.
Alongside the Prime Minister’s announcement, Employment Minister Michaela Cash announced the reinstatement and strengthening of mutual obligation requirements as well as a new employer reporting line.
“As the Prime Minister has said, the best form of welfare is a job,” she said.
The new reporting line will allow employers to contact the Department of Education, Skills and Employment to report payment recipients who fail to accept suitable work. In the event they do not have a valid reason, they will be in breach and may lose payments.
Minister Cash also announced the return of face-to-face job provider appointments and an increase in job searches.
“As of 1 July, 20 job searches a month will be required … After six months of welfare, we require people enter into an intensive training phase of work experience or short course.”
Other changes include that recipients of JobSeeker and Youth Allowance will also be able to earn $150 more a fortnight before their payment is reduced, an incentive for people to look for work and take shifts available.
“We know people who report earnings are twice as likely to transition off payments than those who don’t report any earnings,” said Families and Social Services Minister Anne Ruston.
“We need to support people while they’re looking for work, we need to create the incentives, so people want to look for work and we also have to remove disincentives.”
As more welfare advocacy groups call for an “adequate” increase to welfare payments, Mr Morrison said the social safety net is a contract between the government and Australians.
“I said everyday would become more normal; moving back to a normal safety net arrangement is part of that normalising process but we’re ensuring it’s set at a base that we believe is appropriate going forward,” he said.
“Every person we get in a job, they’re better off and the country is better off.
“That remains our objective.”
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