ScoMo mulls JobSeeker lift

For years it has been obvious that Australia desperately needs a big rise in the JobSeeker payment. It has fallen far behind other nations and behind the pension. It is below the poverty line. Just about every economist and lobby group in the country agrees. Yet the Morrison Government has continued a tin-eared resistance to it which may, finally, be running out of time. At The Australian:

  • The dole is stuck at $565 a fortnight.
  • Various low-level supplements for books, energy etc may be rolled into a single, higher payment.
  • Rental assistance and family tax benefits would be unchanged.
  • Treasury said it was aiming to balance work incentives and equity.

At the end of March, Australia’s unemployment benefit – JobSeeker – is scheduled to fall back to its pre-COVID level of just $40 a day. This is the lowest rate in the developed world (see next chart) and a level that has been slammed by a conga-line of economists (including RBA governor Phil Lowe last week), various commentators and analysts from all sides, and even some Coalition MPs.

When the Coronavirus Supplement was introduced in March last year – temporarily doubling the rate of JobSeeker – it effectively eliminated poverty throughout Australia:

For the first time ever, almost every Australian was suddenly able to afford basic necessities like shelter and food.

It stands to reason, then, that if JobSeeker is allowed to return to just $40, it will throw a record number of Australians into poverty. ACOSS highlights the direness of the situation facing unemployed Australians in its pre-Budget submission:

Despite some improvement in economic conditions, the number of people receiving JobSeeker Payment remains at record highs…

These rates are insufficient to cover basic living costs. For example, median rents in all capital cities now exceed the entire JobSeeker Payment. Anglicare Australia shows that there are just 13 affordable rentals for someone on the base rate of JobSeeker out of 77,000 surveyed.

If JobSeeker Payment is returned to $40 a day at the end of March (as per current government policy) all but one capital cities’ median rent will exceed the amount received via JobSeeker Payment (including Commonwealth Rent Assistance).

MB has repeatedly called for JobSeeker to be permanently lifted to the Aged Pension level of $61.50 a day, and for it to be pegged at this level going forward.

Because it makes absolutely no sense to give pensioners – many of whom fully own their homes and are wealthy – greater income support than the unemployed.

Having millions of Australians slide into poverty is not only disastrous from a social perspective, but it risks stifling Australia’s economic recovery by crimping spending.

The Morrison Government must follow the advice of the RBA and others and permanently lift JobSeeker. It’s both a national economic priority and an issue of fairness.

David Llewellyn-Smith
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Comments

  1. It makes some sense to give pensioners more as they have no ability to get a job.
    The dole must not make it an easy choice for a 22 year old to just sit in the bedroom playing games. Its supposed to hurt..

    • It makes some sense to give pensioners more as they have no ability to get a job.

      It makes no sense as pensioners have nowhere near as many expenses.

      The dole must not make it an easy choice for a 22 year old to just sit in the bedroom playing games. Its supposed to hurt..

      Given the opportunity to earn more working, most will take it. That is the lesson of history and other countries.

      The problem here is lack of jobs. When jobseekers outnumber jobs ten to one, no amount of misery inflicted on the other nine is going to get them into work.

      Fix the big problem of no jobs, then worry about the small problem of dole bludgers.

      • It’s hilarious when people think the dole is sit down money.

        Even the pension isn’t sit down money really, except for pensioners, who are pensioners because they probably need to stop working. How many pensioners really want to be working. Aren’t they at the point of life where they want to be enjoying life as much as they can.

      • Has there been any reputable work (i.e non KPMG numberwang) conducted on the expected impact of an increase to unemployment benefits to crime and imprisonment rates?

        Perhaps the pure (and tangible) economic rationale is more appealing to many in the electorate than the social argument?

        I don’t know the numbers but surely it’s something along the lines of: We know the cycle of poverty is a key driver of criminality. Preventing just 1 person from entering the criminal justice system via petty crime/drug offences would fund the increased unemployment benefits of 20 people. Of those people not entering the justice system, history tells us that at least X% will go on to re-enter the workforce, with their lifetime taxes covering their benefits paid + another x people benefits.

        I appreciate it’s somewhat simplistic, but attempting to simply transfer one morality onto others is not a great marketing strategy, particularly if you require support from a cohort of voters who see themselves as close to poverty as well (absolute or relative) or will simply never identify with the section of society you are advocating for.

        • Has there been any reputable work (i.e non KPMG numberwang) conducted on the expected impact of an increase to unemployment benefits to crime and imprisonment rates?

          Not that I can point to off the top of my head, I’ve read things to that effect in the past but I don’t keep a list.

          The problem is that the poster I was replying to clearly views unemployment as a moral issue, and almost certainly will view criminality as one as well. Ie: the kinds of people who sent convicts to the other side of the work for stealing some bread to eat, back in the day.

          Consequently, no amount of research, facts or evidence is fundamentally going to change their mind, especially when your argument is “increase the dole to reduce the cost of crime”. People like that think the best way to reduce the cost of crime is more police, more gaols, and tougher sentences, no matter how much more that might cost. Because it’s not about economics.

          Further, I would also argue against that justification. We shouldn’t be improving social security just so people aren’t pushed into criminality to survive, we should be improving it because it’s the right thing to do and it provides the best outcomes for both those demographics, and society as a whole.

          Like I said, we should be looking at the big problems (and the medium problems, and the small problems) before worrying about rounding errors like dole bludgers.

          The best way to judge a society is by how it treats the most vulnerable.

          • “Further, I would also argue against that justification”

            I’m a pragmatist at heart, which do I value more, the policy outcome or achieving the moral high ground? I know which one pays the rent, puts food on the table and school uniforms on the backs of disadvantaged kids.

            Appealing to the hip pocket is tried and tested? No doubt why “ill give you x” features far more than “it’s the right thing to do” in almost political campaigns. I’d say that is amplified in the current political environment where any discussion that has the slightest hint of lecturing from a position of moral superiority becomes immediately counter productive to those you’re trying to convert (and a great counter argument for your opponents).

            But, you make a fair point, those with strong views that poverty is matter of choice may well have the same views for crime and the associated economics.

            Policy makers need to find an new angle, this is marketing, there doesn’t have to be just one? Just like Marriage equality, at the end of the day a yes vote on the basis of a progressive social view or personal impact/connection still held the identical weight as a yes vote on the basis of ‘who cares, doesn’t hurt me, let people marry who they want’. Getting a no voter to come around to the latter is still progress, especially if the result is the policy outcome you want.

            I also agree re the rounding error relative to other expenditure, Although focusing on that tends to pit one group of voters against another (again, what you ‘should give’ rather than what you ‘are getting’) so I don’t tend to focus on it unless someone at the BBQ makes a point of calling out ‘how much we waste on the dole’.

          • It seems you can’t argue for a better moral outcome without “taking the moral high ground”.

            And if you aren’t arguing for a better moral outcome (ie: “progress”), wtf are you arguing for ?

          • Occupying (a version) of a ‘moral high ground’ is distinct from projecting ‘moral superiority’, the latter serves nothing but the ego of the one projecting it.

            If you want a better moral outcome but your view doesn’t cut though for your opponent, perhaps find another argument that might (other than questioning their morals or intellect)? Pretty simple concept for those who value outcomes, impossible to grasp for those who prioritise ideology. No shortage of the latter when it comes to politics.

          • Occupying (a version) of a ‘moral high ground’ is distinct from projecting ‘moral superiority’, the latter serves nothing but the ego of the one projecting it.

            But accusing someone of “projecting moral superiority” is simply dismissing what someone is saying without addressing it. It’s basically just an ad hominem.

            If you want a better moral outcome but your view doesn’t cut though for your opponent, perhaps find another argument that might (other than questioning their morals or intellect)? Pretty simple concept for those who value outcomes, impossible to grasp for those who prioritise ideology.

            A simple concept, but a very difficult execution, and an ultimately flawed approach in my opinion.

            The problem with producing the “right” outcome for the “wrong” reasons is that subsequently abandoning that “right” outcome is much easier.

            To use your earlier example, somebody who went from a “no” to “yes” on same sex marriage because of “who cares” (rather than understanding the real issue of equality before the law), could flip back to a “no” again at any time, because, well, “who cares”.

            It is not a solid foundation upon which to build lasting change, because it is superficial.

          • > Because it’s not about economics.

            This is the exact issue with the war on drugs, and why it’s a failure.

            >The best way to judge a society is by how it treats the most vulnerable.

            Well said. 👏

    • I think the young hurt plenty in present day Straya given that the structure of the economy is stacked against legazens of all ethnicities esp in the lower echelons of society. You could call an increase in js the pacifier price those with means need to pay to keep the disenfranchised quiescent.

    • I'll have anotherMEMBER

      In the biggest old Boomer welfare state, where intergenerational theft is conducted without restraint, you propose giving pensioners more money and young people can get squat?

      This, right here, is exactly the type of greedy, Boomer mentality that people get the sh*”s with.

  2. Lower the aged pension. Not working now is a lifestyle choice. Minimum wage is far greater than Jobseeker. Plenty of jobs around for those who want them – that’s really the issue.

      • Strange Economics

        Or the tradie who now has a bad back at 50. Should they get 40 a day?
        Anyway where in Melbourne can you get a home to stay home in on 20 a day except on the street, so you can use the other 20 a day to eat, catch the bus. etc…
        Not every 20 year old has wealthy parents in a big house like youse guys.
        Talk to a few 20 year olds they would like a job.
        Pity there’s 9 people to each vacancy lately.

  3. What exactly is Scomo considering?

    had a quick look at the AFR and ABC, didn’t appear to be anything of relevance there? Of course the ABC did have coverage on the all important national issue of “Is giving your child a name from a different culture appropriation?”…..

    • happy valleyMEMBER

      I suspect that permanently lifting JS out of poverty level would stick in the craw of Scotty from Marketing as it is contrary to the happy clappy principle that anybody in strife deserved to be?

      • Yes, didn’t see anything in press or this article that ScoMo was considering a lift. Only thing that might push him is if polls show Labor supporting this is affecting his reelection, I reckon.

    • He’s considering the hit in the polls. If too many of the people flung back into poverty are swing voters it might cost him the election. Now that the ALP is showing a modicum of ticker it’s an easy attack vector.

  4. happy valleyMEMBER

    “The Morrison Government must follow the advice of the RBA and others and permanently lift JobSeeker.”

    The RBA acting holier than thou regarding JS when it is the RBA that has only too happily and dismissively, annihilated the the interest income of fixed interest income reliant retirees. Pfft.

    • Strange Economics

      Corrected quote –
      “The Morrison Government must follow the advice of the RBA and others and permanently lift house prices for high income earners. Truly they have suffered enough with a 3 % drop last year”

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