Could you live on $46 a day?
13 April 2022 at 2:28 pm
That is the question ACOSS is asking all political leaders and candidates, after Labor confirmed it does not have plans to raise JobSeeker.
The social sector has expressed its disappointment after the Opposition confirmed it has not committed to an additional increase to the JobSeeker payment and has dropped plans for a review into the rate.
The shadow assistant minister for treasury and charities, Dr Andrew Leigh, was asked to clarify Labor’s position on the JobSeeker payment at an ACOSS event on Tuesday.
Guardian Australia reports he confirmed Labor hasn’t committed to an additional increase.
Instead he acknowledged “living on JobSeeker is a challenge”, and told the forum that the party was looking at other policies to ease cost-of-living pressures such as rent assistance and the adequacy of social housing.
“It’s that whole package… making sure we have appropriate supports around people who are most vulnerable,” Leigh said.
He confirmed that plans to review the rate, as promised by former Labor leader Bill Shorten in 2019, had also been dropped for the coming election.
The announcement means that neither major party currently has a plan to lift income support if they form government.
Leigh’s comments have sparked disappointment across the sector.
St Vincent de Paul Society national president Claire Victory said the decision was both cruel and unnecessary.
“It is crushingly disappointing that voters at this election will not be able to choose a party of government that wants to lift Australia’s brutally low JobSeeker rate,” Victory said.
“It is simply immoral for a nation as wealthy as Australia to allow millions of people to languish beneath the poverty line.
“We’re constantly told that lifting the JobSeeker rate would act as a disincentive to work, but the research doesn’t bear that out and in my decades of engaging with people experiencing poverty I’m yet to find anyone who’s able to work but chooses to remain on JobSeeker. It’s clear that the current JobSeeker rate is actually designed to punish people.”
The Antipoverty Centre said it was “a devastating blow to people on income support”.
Spokesperson Kristin O’Connell said the announcement showed it would be another election where “unemployed people will be used as a political football”.
“Whoever wins, we lose,” O’Connell said.
“We again urge politicians to grow a spine and commit to increasing all social security payments to the Henderson poverty line, which is currently $88 a day, and ensure that everyone who needs support can get it. It should be their first and highest priority to make sure everyone has enough to live.”
The rate, which was increased last year by $50 a fortnight, is currently $642.70 a fortnight for a single person, or about $46 a day.
Greens leader Adam Bandt is calling for a base rate of $88 per day for all income support including JobSeeker.
ACOSS is calling on all candidates and parties to commit to raising the rate of JobSeeker to $70 a day.
Polling done by the organisation in November showed there was broad support amongst voters to increase JobSeeker so that it is enough to cover the basics.
ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said the 1.5 million people struggling to survive on JobSeeker and other income support needed hope that their lives matter, and clarity from the major parties and candidates that their incomes will be lifted.
“JobSeeker is just $46 a day, and completely inadequate to cover basic costs. And yet, neither the ALP nor the Coalition have committed to increasing these payments,” Goldie said.
“How can anyone claim to care about the cost of living without addressing the inadequacy of JobSeeker, which is not enough to cover the cost of food, rent and essential medication?”