With unemployment figures out today, the Australian Council of Social Service is warning that only two thirds of full-time time jobs lost in the recession have been restored and that more jobs must be generated to allow for people entering the labour market, including more than 200,000 school leavers. Read more.
National media attention on JobSeeker cuts
In the final week of 2020 ACOSS drew national attention to the Government’s decision to cut the Coronavirus Supplement by another $100 to just $150 a fortnight, effectively slashing the JobSeeker payment to $50/day. There was extensive coverage from journalists across diverse media platforms. Many people relying on JobSeeker spoke up, and continue to do so. ACOSS worked hard to share this coverage widely and to amplify the voices of people who are struggling to survive on the reduced rate of Jobseeker and Youth Allowance.
Bane Williams wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald how, thanks to the Coronavirus Supplement doubling his JobSeeker payment, “I got to see what life could be like if I didn’t have to worry every day about what I should eat, or if I would even eat at all.” Where he could run his heater, attend a job interview looking presentable. “And then I got to watch as those got taken away from me. Where I had to go back to deciding what was more important — healthy food or being able to afford seeing a professional for my back.”
As Cliff Fraser told 9 News, “I’m not ready to retire, but I feel like I’ve been thrown on the scrap heap.” And Caryn Ryan said in the Guardian, “people (previously) on Newstart or … who lost their jobs through Covid, they can’t survive, let alone live” on $40/day.” Caryn told 7 Sunrise that she had applied for more than 800 jobs which resulted in just three interviews and no job offers.
Rita McDonald explained to ABC’s AM, “I have progressively become more and more ill, because Newstart was so low I haven’t been able to eat properly or take my medications,” and told the ABC evening news, she fears that, “we’ll be thrown back into that poverty trap.”
ACOSS called a media conference on 29 December which saw CEO Cassandra Goldie on the evening news on channels 9, 7 and SBS, and on the Today Show, Sunrise and SkyNews the following morning, urging the Government to increase the base rate of JobSeeker instead of returning people to the brutal $40/day rate when the Supplement ends in March..
Brotherhood of St Laurence ED Conny Lenneberg tweeted, “Over 27 years the value of Newstart was steadily eroded so that it was so far below the poverty line it was almost universally recognised as a barrier not an incentive to employment.”
Dr Lynette Edge, Mission Secretary for the Salvation Army made a strong case for a permanent increase to JobSeeker in the Herald, “The base rate of JobSeeker and Youth Allowance is so low that it acts as a barrier to getting a job. It is so low that it becomes, in effect, a poverty trap.”
Leading economists backed the call for an increase in JobSeeker. The Herald reported that former Reserve Bank governor Bernie Fraser said there needed to be a 50 to 100% increase in the permanent level of JobSeeker, “backed up with… [government] spending on all sorts of things like social housing.” University of Queensland Professor John Quiggin said JobSeeker should be returned to the same level as the age pension.
For a full summary of the changes needed to income support, including Jobseeker and other allowances, rent assistance, family payments and pensions, DOWNLOAD the ACOSS paper: Next Steps in Income Support .
View all ACOSS media coverage here
With Australian governments and communities still grappling with the COVID-19 health and economic crisis, more than 2 million people without paid work face grave uncertainty about how they will make ends meet when the Federal Government cuts Coronavirus Supplement payments again on 31 December by another $100 to just $150 per fortnight. “We need a permanent increase to the base rate of JobSeeker of at least $25 a day more than the old Newstart rate, so that people can cover the basics,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie. Read more
The Federal Government’s Mid-Year Economic Statement leaves millions to face deep insecurity into the new year.
ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said: “There’s been some improvement in the economic figures, which is clearly the result of action taken by the Government at the start of the pandemic. But the Government is now threatening to withdraw these much-needed supports, despite the long, hard road that the Treasurer acknowledged we have ahead of us.” Read more.
A new report by ACOSS and UNSW Sydney shows that, pre-COVID, single people on JobSeeker, even those with some paid work, and single parents on JobSeeker, have been struggling on the lowest rung of the household income scale. Over half are in the lowest 10% of incomes nationally. Half of people on age pensions are in the lowest 20% of incomes nationally, though widespread home ownership among this group provides a significant degree of protection from poverty. The 10% of older people who rent their homes are in a much more financially distressed position. Read more.
The Australian Council of Social Service has today welcomed the $850 million investment in 10,000 new home care packages as a great step along the way to reducing the wait list for home care packages. Read more.