Social services minister Anne Ruston has said that reports the JobSeeker unemployment rate will rise by $75 a week after September are “factually incorrect”.
As part of its COVID-19 assistance package, the government temporarily increased the JobSeeker payment, formerly known as Newstart, to $1100 a fortnight, but it is due to revert to $565 a fortnight at the end of September.
New Corp reported at the weekend that instead of reverting to $565 a fortnight, the payment would be permanently boosted to $715 a fortnight, an increase of $75 a week.
Since the age of Age Pension eligibility has risen, older Australians are now the largest cohort of people accessing the JobSeeker payment.
Ms Ruston said the report of a permanent increase in the JobSeeker rate was “factually incorrect”.
“There is no submission to the effect that has been reported in the paper that is currently before me or I’m aware of,” she said.
“Given I’m the social services minister, you’d like to think I’d be aware of it.
“I know of no such proposal and you can read into that what you’d like.”
Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) chief executive Dr Cassandra Goldie said an increase was necessary, but the reported increase, which amounted to just an extra $10 a day, did not go far enough.
Dr Goldie said it was important that income support recipients had enough money to cover the basics of life.
“While we welcome (reports) that the government is planning a permanent increase, it must allow people to cover the basics, and we know that an increase of $10 a day won’t go far enough,” she said.
“We need to let people know we have their backs. We must adequately raise the rate of JobSeeker.
“A $10 a day increase to the old, low Newstart rate won’t be enough to allow people to cover their housing costs, food, bills and transport.
“As we handle the COVID-19 health crisis and confront the economic crisis, more people than ever before will struggle to find paid work. Just in the last week we’ve seen thousands of job losses,” Dr Goldie said.
“It’s clear to everyone, including the government, that we can’t turn back to where we were when people were struggling to survive on $40 per day. This is not enough to live, let alone to cover the basics.
“There must be an adequate, permanent increase, which ensures people do not lose their homes. Even with the supplement, only 1.5 per cent of rentals are affordable for people on JobSeeker Australia-wide. We know that with the Coronavirus Supplement people have been struggling to cover their rent. People are telling us they need every single dollar they are getting now with the doubling of JobSeeker in order to cover the essentials.
“Making sure people have enough to cover the basics is not only the right thing to do but the smart thing to do for the economy. A $75 per week permanent increase to the old rate is effectively a $200 per week cut to the current rate. Cutting the incomes of almost two million people by $200 per week in September would not be what businesses and the economy need to rebuild,” Dr Goldie explained.
A recent release from leading think tank the Grattan Institute also calls for JobSeeker to be increased by at least $100 a week while increasing the rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 40 per cent.
According to the Grattan Institute’s Recovery Book, the government should announce extra economic stimulus – including spending on social housing and shovel-ready maintenance and infrastructure projects – in or before the October Budget, with the goal of getting hundreds of thousands of Australians back to work and dragging unemployment back down to about 5 per cent by the middle of 2022.
Do you think the rate of the JobSeeker payment needs to be increased? Should it stay at the coronavirus rate permanently?
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