By Joe Montero
We now know that government ministers have agreed to permanently lift the JobSeeker payment by $50 a fortnight or $25 a week. The increase will extend to Austudy, Abstudy and parenting payments. JobKeeeper payments are set to come to an end.
It is obvious that going back to the pre-Covid-19 rate at the end of March was going to cause the government major political damage. There is no surprise here. Something had to give.
Dropping JobSeeker down to $357.50 a week, almost takes it down to the $284.50 before the pandemic. This is a cut disguised as an increase, and it is far from good enough.
The Australian Council of Social Service has called for a permanent increase to Jobseeker to $450 a week. Other organisations, like the Australian Unemployed Workers Union and the Living Incomes For Everyone, which has more than 80 organisations endorsing its campaign demands, are calling for $550 a week. This is close to the amount considered necessary to provide a basic standard of living during the pandemic.
If it was necessary then, it is necessary now. The cost of living remains as high as it was last year.
A new report from Anglicare Victoria shows that its financial counselling service saw a reduction in numbers seeking help during the pandemic, because of what they were receiving through JobSeeker and JobKeeper.
Now they are going to be thrown to the wolves.
Not only is the existing support base going to be cut. It is understood that eligibility will be tightened through stiffer means testing. We are yet to learn the details of this. Whatever they turn out to be, it is certain that more people will be denied payments.
There is also a possibility that at least some allowances topping up the current base will be absorbed in the minimal increase, thereby lessening its real dollar value.
By doing this, the government might just be heading us into another crisis, brought about by increased suffering within our community and the further damage it causes to the economy and society.