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‘It's incalculable cruelty’: Charities say $25 a week JobSeeker increase is deeply inadequate

23 February 2021 at 5:25 pm
Luke Michael
“This rate is far too low, and we will see the continuing impacts of this on rates of disadvantage, poverty and homelessness in Australia”

Luke Michael | 23 February 2021 at 5:25 pm


‘It's incalculable cruelty’: Charities say $25 a week JobSeeker increase is deeply inadequate
23 February 2021 at 5:25 pm

“This rate is far too low, and we will see the continuing impacts of this on rates of disadvantage, poverty and homelessness in Australia”

The community sector has severely condemned the Morrison government’s decision to raise the JobSeeker payment by less than $4 a day, warning this will plunge millions of people further into poverty. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed on Tuesday that JobSeeker will increase permanently by $25 a week to $615.70 per fortnight once the coronavirus supplement ends on 31 March.

The government also announced tougher mutual obligations requirements for jobseekers, and the creation of a hotline where employers can report welfare recipients who turn down work.

Morrison described the new welfare measures as a “change of gears” in Australia’s economic recovery from COVID-19.

“And with that change of gears, what we are doing now is we are re-basing the JobSeeker payment to ensure that the long-term arrangements now are there for people to rely on should they find themselves out of work and to get the support they need when they’re out of work,” Morrison said.

Community groups have slammed the $3.57 a day increase, which follows years of campaigning from the sector to raise the rate. 

The Australian Council of Social Service was calling for the rate to increase by $25 a day, which would have taken it to the national poverty line level of $457 a week. 

CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said the government’s decision was a “heartless betrayal of millions of people” on welfare.

“Today, the government has turned its back on those with the least, plunging people further into poverty,” Goldie said.

“It’s a cruel decision that shows a complete lack of humanity and empathy. It comes as devastating news for so many and will have serious consequences for people’s lives, including homelessness and crushing debt.”

Anglicare Australia pointed out that the new permanent $44 a day JobSeeker rate will actually represent a cut for welfare recipients, who are currently on $51 a day with the coronavirus supplement. 

Executive director Kasy Chambers said Australians won’t buy the government’s spin of reframing the cut as an increase. 

“People out of work have been strung along for months. They were lifted out of poverty in 2020 only to have their payments cut again and again with no certainty,” Chambers said.

“Now their payments will be cut to almost half of the poverty line. That’s not good enough.  

Anglicare Australia renewed its calls for an independent body to set and raise the rate of welfare payments.

Mission Australia CEO James Toomey said the federal government had failed to take an historic opportunity to dramatically lessen poverty, reduce homelessness and change lives.

“To increase the rate by only $50 a fortnight is an appalling decision. This rate is far too low, and we will see the continuing impacts of this on rates of disadvantage, poverty and homelessness in Australia,” Toomey said.

“Already, many people surviving on income support are facing immense distress and insecurity… [this new rate] is unfathomable and will not help get people back into work.”

Mutual obligations overhaul slammed  

The Morrison government’s decision to pair the JobSeeker increase with harsher mutual obligations measures has also come under fire.

Jobseekers will be required to search for at least 15 jobs a month from early April, with this rising to the pre-pandemic level of 20 jobs a month from July.

After six months on the payment, jobseekers will have to participate in an approved intensive short course or go on work for the dole.

An employer reporting line is also being set up, so employers can dob in welfare recipients who decline a job offer – with these jobseekers put at risk of having their payments docked.

Goldie said this was another cruel decision by the government.

“We already have one of the strictest systems of income support compliance among comparable countries,” she said.

“Harsher mutual obligation requirements will just make life even tougher for millions of people without improving their job prospects.”

The Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union also slammed the announcement. 

AUWU spokesperson Kristin O’Connell told Pro Bono News the government was showing “incalculable cruelty”.

She said dialling up the policing of unemployed people was inexcusable and made no sense.

“People already struggle to survive on the payment and then with mutual obligations on top it makes it harder and harder to actually find work,” O’Connell said.

“Mutual obligations don’t help people find a job. They stop people from being able to find a job.

“They call it a carrot and stick. But really, you get a stick on one end and a whip on the other.”

The AUWU is calling for JobSeeker to be raised to $80 a day, which would put it in line with the original coronavirus supplement announced last March. 

She said activists would now be pushing to get more community groups on board with this figure.  

“We have support from The Greens and Get Up in our campaign and we’re pushing that harder and harder,” she said.

“It is really tough to take the shock of the announcement today, but we will be only more strident in our continued fight to get a just welfare system.”

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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