The Government is facing growing pressure to include a JobSeeker payment increase in the Federal Budget on 9 May.
Last week, the Government’s own expert panel called for a “substantial increase”, which the Government is set to reject.
Now several of the Government’s own MPs have called for an increase.
What is JobSeeker?
The JobSeeker unemployment benefit is automatically updated twice a year to match rising prices.
However, the payments have not permanently increased above inflation for over two decades. This has seen the payments fall behind compared to the incomes of employed people and relative to most measures of poverty.
The current rate of JobSeeker for a single person with no children is less than $50 a day. About a million people receive JobSeeker or a similar payment.
Who decides whether there is a JobSeeker payment increase?
The Government set up an expert panel to consider options to address economic disadvantage. The panel said JobSeeker was “seriously inadequate” and noted recipients face “the highest levels of financial stress in Australia”.
As well as a JobSeeker payment increase, the panel called for an increase to Rent Assistance (a rent subsidy for welfare recipients) and to change a rule that makes it harder for welfare recipients to access the Child Care Subsidy.
Which backbenchers want a JobSeeker payment increase?
Several Labor ‘backbenchers’ (MPs who do not have ministerial positions) have joined calls for an increase.
Alicia Payne, Michelle Ananda-Rajah, Kate Thwaites, Louise Miller-Frost and Peter Khalil have all signed an open letter supporting an increase. Others, including Cassandra Fernando, Mike Freelander and Carina Garland, have spoken publicly in support.
In comments provided to TDA, MP Josh Burns joined these calls. “The rate is simply not enough. Of course, we should raise it. I couldn’t live off it and will keep working until we raise JobSeeker,” Burns said.
How did the Government respond?
The Government will not accept the expert panel’s recommendation for a JobSeeker payment increase. It has not confirmed whether it will consider changes to Rent Assistance or child care arrangements, or whether it will consider a smaller increase.
Yesterday, Treasurer Jim Chalmers again signalled the Government was concerned about limiting spending in the Budget. “I recognise that it is tough to live on the JobSeeker payment… that’s why we want to move as many people as we can off that payment and into good, secure, well-paid jobs”, Chalmers said.
What are other politicians saying?
The Greens and several independent MPs have joined calls for a JobSeeker payment increase. In a speech at the National Press Club yesterday, Greens Leader Adam Bandt attacked the Government for “saying job seekers have to remain in poverty”.
The Opposition does not support an increase. Shadow Treasurer Angus Taylor has argued extra spending could push inflation higher. “The best way to help someone who’s looking for a job is to help them to get a job,” Taylor said.