Yesterday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the ABC that his government would not lift the permanent rate of the JobSeeker unemployment benefit when the Coronavirus supplement expires in late March:
Frydenberg said the government had made a point during the pandemic of not baking in structural spending – spending that carries on in perpetuity.
Asked about the outlook for jobseeker after March, the treasurer said “every dollar we’ve spent through this crisis is a borrowed dollar” and he noted that thus far, “we haven’t built in structural spending for the longer term”…
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Frydenberg’s signal on Sunday suggests the government is not contemplating a significant, permanent increase to unemployment benefits.
According to CBA, the number of people receiving JobSeeker is still around 80% higher than pre-pandemic levels:
This figure is also likely to rise once JobKeeper is abolished at the end of March, which will likely push some recipients onto JobSeeker.
Given Australia’s unemployment benefits were already the lowest in the developed world pre-pandemic:
What makes Treasurer Frydenberg think that returning JobSeeker to its old poverty level of $40 a day is appropriate?
Because literally millions of Australians could be thrown back into poverty.
The solution to poverty is actually very simple and is illustrated clearly in the above chart: bring the JobSeeker payment up to parity with the Aged Pension and the poverty line.
There is no logical reason why unemployed people on JobSeeker should be paid a lower rate than those on the Aged Pension – many pensioners of whom are wealthy due to owning their home.
Allowing JobSeeker to return to just $40 a day is not only incredibly cruel, but it will ensure a slower economic recovery, higher unemployment than necessary, and increased financial suffering and homelessness.
The Morrison Government has failed the unemployed, the economy, and torn at Australia’s social fabric.