Treasurer Josh Frydenberg hinted over the weekend that the federal government would announce a permanent lift in the JobSeeker unemployment payment before the end of March when the Coronavirus Supplement is scheduled to end.
Cabinet’s expenditure review committee is reportedly set to meet within the next week to finalise a package that will enshrine an effective permanent rise in the JobSeeker rate above its poverty level of $40 a day.
A senior government source informed The Australian that the Morrison Government aims to introduce legislation next week to ensure enough time to pass both houses and come into effect before the Coronavirus Supplement ends.
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The preferred option is rumoured to include streamlining the income support payment system into a single increased payment for the unemployed. This would involve abolishing up to a dozen other supplements or subsidies.
While the devil will obviously be in the detail, this is heartening news.
My preference would be to peg the base JobSeeker rate (currently $40 a day) to the Aged Pension Level (currently $61.50 a day):
This would lift the unemployed above the poverty line and would simplify the welfare system. There is also no logical reason why unemployed Australians receive less income support than pensioners, given many pensioners own their home and are asset rich.
Realistically, however, I do not expect the Morrison Government to be so generous. We will likely only see a modest lift in JobSeeker – an amount that is just high enough to nullify it as a political issue.
Still, any increase is better than no increase. Be grateful for small mercies.
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