Thousands take action against Christmas-cut to income support as unemployment hits 7%

19 November 2020

As unemployment figures are released today, the Raise the Rate for Good National Day of Action is taking place with thousands of people around the country sending messages to parliamentarians saying, “All I want for the holidays is to stop the cuts that will send a million people into poverty”.

The unemployment figure for October hit 7% (1.7% higher than that time last year). We’re still over 200,000 jobs short of the level of employment before the recession (in March 2020).

The Australian Council of Social Service says the Government’s decision to further cut income support at the end of the year by another $100 a fortnight is a cruel and damaging mistake that will come as a crushing blow to millions.

The Coronavirus Supplement, received by people on JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and parenting payments, was cut by $150 per week in September and will be cut again in December down to $75 per week until March 28 2021.

ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said: “With this cut, the Government is almost taking us back to the brutal old, Newstart rate. The reduced rate from January to March is only $10 a day more than the old, unlivable Newstart rate, which had not been increased in real terms in more than a quarter of a century.

“Coming into effect at Christmas time, this cut is a cruel and damaging mistake, hurting people already doing it tough, including more than one million children in families receiving the Coronavirus Supplement.

“The end of the year is often the most expensive time for families and this Christmas is going to be a really hard one for millions, with record-high unemployment.

“There is currently only one job vacancy available for every 12 people without paid work or enough paid work, with even fewer jobs in regional areas.

“Thousands of people around the country are sending Season’s Greetings cards to Canberra with the clear message that they oppose sending more than one million people into poverty right in the holiday season, amid record high unemployment.”

Modelling by the Australian National University shows that the government cuts made to income support in September and January will plunge another 1.16 million people into poverty by the New Year.

Analysis by Deloitte Access Economics found that cutting and then fully removing the Coronavirus Supplement would reduce the size of the economy by $31.3 billion and see an average loss of 145,000 Full-Time Equivalent jobs across 2020-21 and 2021-22.

“Instead of short-term measures and cuts, we need a permanent, adequate rate of income support so that people can cover the basics and get the security they need to rebuild their lives.

“At the very least, this needs to be a $25 per day increase on the old, grossly inadequate Newstart rate, which would bring the payment only just above the poverty line, but closer to the pension rate, as it used to be.

“After over 25 years, it is time to fix the adequacy of the unemployment payment, and restore it to being the effective lifeline payment it needs to be,” Dr Goldie said.