Government announces Christmas cut to income support payments

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The Morrison government has made a decision on the future of the JobSeeker coronavirus payments, with both good and bad news for those older Australians relying on the money after finding themselves unemployed during the pandemic.

The coronavirus supplement will be extended beyond the current 31 December cut-off, for a further three months but at a reduced rate of just $150 per fortnight, down from the $550 a fortnight when it was first introduced, and $100 a fortnight less than the rate at which it has been paid since 25 September.

Last month, the Parliamentary Budget Office said that the JobSeeker payment was “functioning as a kind of pre-Age Pension payment for some older Australians”, with an increasing number of older men and women relying on the payment.

The payment of the coronavirus JobSeeker supplement at the new rate will come into effect from 1 January 2021 and will extend through to 28 March 2021.

In the early days of the pandemic, the JobSeeker coronavirus supplement was paid as a $550 fortnightly payment, but this was scaled back to $250 a fortnight from 25 September.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the extension of the measure is estimated to cost $3.2 billion over the three months.

“Cabinet has considered it, it has gone through our party room this morning and legislation will come … later this week,” Mr Morrison said.

“We cannot stay stuck in neutral in this country, we have got to keep moving forward, like the emblems on our national crest, the kangaroo and the emu, they only go forward, and that can be the only plan for Australia.”

Social Services minister Anne Ruston said the government would also be increasing the income free area, which is currently at $300 per fortnight, to encourage people back into the workforce.

“We want to encourage Australians to dip their toe back into the jobs market and test their ability to get work,” Ms Ruston said.

“We know that people who report earnings are twice as likely to actually come off the payment in the short term than those who do not report any earnings at all.

“We will be maintaining the elevated level of the partner taper rate, which means people whose partners are earning up to $80,000 per year will also be able to gain access to the payment.

“In addition, the expanded eligibility criteria will cover people who are sole traders, people who are self-employed, those that have been stood down but remain connected to their workplace, people who were in isolation and people who have to care for somebody in isolation.”

Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) chief executive Dr Cassandra Goldie called on the federal government to put in place a permanent, adequate rate of income support.

“The end of the year is often the most expensive time for families and this Christmas is going to be a really hard one for millions, with record-high unemployment,” Dr Goldie said. “Already, retailers are bracing for a slow holiday season, following a tough year.

“We’re warning the government against a Christmas cut for people on the lowest incomes. This would be a cruel and damaging mistake, hurting people doing it tough, as well as the country’s economic recovery.

“Instead of short-term measures and cuts, we need a permanent, adequate rate of income support so that people can cover the basics and rebuild their lives.”

Anglicare Australia also urged the government to reconsider the cuts.

Anglicare Australia deputy executive director Imogen Ebsworth said it was clear that there were not enough jobs for the people that needed them in the current climate and there ought to be more relief.

“This new cut will cause anguish and real hardship for Australians out of work. It will push them into poverty – instead of helping them stay on their feet,” she said.

Ms Ebsworth backed calls to raise the JobSeeker rate above the poverty line permanently.

“People will be recovering from this pandemic for months and years to come. They need certainty. That means a permanent increase, not more cuts. We should be supporting everyone to recover from this crisis,” she said.

“Instead of helping people plan for their future, these changes will simply ‘phase in’ poverty.”

“The old rate of JobSeeker was frozen for almost three decades. It became a poverty trap, locking people out of work and forcing them to turn to agencies like ours just to get by.

“It’s time for to the government to raise the rate for good, instead of leaving people behind,” Ms Ebsworth said.

Older workers also have good reason to keep an eye on the Senate on Tuesday, with debate starting on the government’s JobMaker hiring credit.

The scheme, announced in last month’s Budget, aims to provide employees with a financial incentive to hire younger workers.

The scheme has come under attack from many sectors for failing to protect older workers, with many forecasting businesses will fire more mature and experienced staff with the aim of reducing expenses.

Independent senators Rex Patrick and Pauline Hanson have announced that they are not supporting the bill as it contains too many flaws, while Labor and the Greens are proposing several amendments to add in protections for older workers.

Labor’s proposed amendments require the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to publish information about the performance of the scheme, create reporting requirements for companies receiving JobMaker credits and state that government must create avenues for whistleblowers and dispute resolution procedures for the program.

The Greens are seeking to limit the scheme to companies that haven’t increased their dividends during the pandemic, ban them for companies that have underpaid their workers and prevent companies sacking staff and claiming the credits.

Do you think the JobSeeker coronavirus supplement should continue at the current rate? Do you support a permanent increase to the JobSeeker payment? Would you like to see the JobMaker legislation defeated to protect the jobs of older workers?

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Written by Ben


Total Comments: 22
  1. 0

    Defeating Jobmaker legislation will NOT protect older people’s jobs.

  2. 0

    Yo, ho, ho, merry Christmas all you JobSeekers! The Liberal Asshole train just keeps on rolling over us! Can we PLEASE have a Joe Biden moment down here in the Sewer ? With regard to the 3 questions at the end, I say YES, YES & YES, especially as our household income relies on Jobseeker to some degree!

  3. 0

    Merry Christmas, Mr Morrison. All these schemes do is help the companies exploit vulnerable workers, I’m afraid

  4. 0

    This comment relates to older JobSeekers who have no chance whatsoever of getting any job. Logically, the Govt should bring back the no obligation Partner Payment for spouses of those on the Age Pension, especially when the Govt has incentivised employers to target the younger market.

  5. 0

    Typical of these useless mob of Right wing nutjobs. Screw the poor and give all the money to the rich. I am told by people on jobseeker that the current rate allow them to buy wholesome food for their family rather than the cheapest quality items. How can they possibly give tax cuts straight away to people on $2 million yet keep the poor scraping for a living.

  6. 0

    When JobKeeper and the increase on JobSeeker were announced, it was always the case that when the pandemic was lessened or obliterated that the payments would be scaled back. There was always going to be an outcry regardless of how much was scaled back or when payments were brought to pre-COVID-19 levels and all we hear is Labor trying to make political gain. The alternative to JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments would have been to walk away.

    • 0

      Yeah, funny that the Coronavirus supplement was due to end at the end of December but an extension to the payment is somehow regarded as a Christmas cut to the payment. Obviously can’t please everyone

  7. 0

    Let’s see. It took me four years to get a casual job at Liquorland. A new manageress did not think I (as someone over 60) fit into her team and cut my hours to the bone. Agism is alive and well in Australia. The award system sets it in concrete. I gave up looking for a job and started doing Uber. I really enjoyed that meeting people, getting outside and paying my way. Unfortunately I leased a vehicle. My earnings overnight went from $50 an hours to $7.50 an hour. I handed the car back – there was no way I could afford it.
    I got Job Seeker but my savings have been wiped out. I have no superannuation – past relationships have seen to that.
    I live on less than $130 a fortnight which will then be gone at Christmas. I would like to do Uber again but airport traffic is a huge part of the earnings with people going to restaurants (which the Queensland government still have restricted).
    All this for a disease that 80% of the population will have no problem with – I can talk because the other day, I found out I had coronavirus antibodies. I have no idea when I got them. But if you listen to the inept media with an agenda, I am going to die and politicians should react. Rubbish.
    Thank you all levels of government for overreacting and thank you all parliamentarians for the new experience of poverty. All the while, you got paid all the way through and will retire on big superannuations.
    Go rot.

    • 0

      The only way you could have been diagnosed with COVID-19 antibodies is through a blood test specifically for that. It would not be included in any usual blood test for other purposes.

      And the only way you could develop antibodies is to have had the infection. It is possible you had the infection and were aymptomatic so may not have known you had it.

      You don’t just ‘get’ COVID-19 antibodies. There are only two ways, through infection or through a blood transfusion from someone who had been infected.

    • 0

      Yes, ageism is most definitely alive and well in all aspects of the workforce. It seems Bunnings is very good at hiring an older population.
      Bosses don’t like people older and wiser than themselves. I guess that’s why its so important to become an independent money earner. Although they have been the worst hit with COVID lockdowns unfortunately.

  8. 0

    Bad policy on the run the system is being abused due to lack of supervision.

  9. 0

    For heavens sake. The farmers can’t get their crops harvested because our people are having such a wonderful time on government welfare. We have to get Australia functioning again.

    • 0

      Single jobseeker with supplement will be $715 per fortnight. I’m sure people are having a wonderful time on welfare. Nothing like a sweeping statement. What a joke

    • 0

      A lot of the problems farmers were having getting pickers was that, until recently, the borders were still closed and people couldn’t get to the jobs. This applied to ANY/ALL backpackers still in the country and there are quite a few of them, who are NOT able to access ANY government payment at all.[They rely on charities/friends to survive]
      Yes you will have people who will NOT, under any circumstances, work for a living. BUT Covid and this higher payment didn’t do that. They were there already!

    • 0

      – and so is Ben’s idea that we should be a welfare State forever. There are lots of people who want to get back to work however there are a whole lot of others who are happily milking the system.
      Not only are those with jobs having to carry the load they are also having their tax dollars supplementing – not those who want a job but those who don’t.

  10. 0

    Rush ton reminds us of the female guards in the German concentration camps. Ugly and no personality or charisma. And heartless also.

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