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Centrelink JobSeeker boost missing from Labor’s agenda

Centrelink branch
The rising costs of living has experts increasingly concerned about low Centrelink payments. (Source: Getty)

A review of the Centrelink JobSeeker payment has slipped off Labor’s agenda, with a commitment to upping the welfare payment also absent from the Opposition party’s election platform.

Speaking at an Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) event yesterday, Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury and Charities Andrew Leigh failed to commit the party to an increase in JobSeeker.

When asked if the Opposition would raise the payments if it won the election, Leigh said the Labor Party “haven’t committed to an additional increase”.

He said a “modest increase” to payments had occurred recently.

“But certainly, living on JobSeeker is a challenge. There's no doubt about that,” he said.

He said Labor would be looking at the “whole package” needed to support vulnerable people.

“We're also thinking about areas such as rental assistance and the adequacy of social housing,” he said.

At this stage, Labor also hasn't committed to an independent review of the welfare payments.

In the lead-up to the 2019 federal election, then-opposition leader Bill Shorten made no commitment to boost the payments but did promise a review “into the inadequacy” of JobSeeker payments.

Leigh said the party’s focus would remain on its social housing commitment, which would see 30,000 additional social and affordable homes built.

According to affordable-housing advocates, providing people with housing meant taxpayers avoided the costs of addressing homelessness, mental health, domestic violence, alcohol/substance abuse and foregone tax revenue.

Labor would also focus on improving the troubled aged care system, Leigh said.

Calls for higher welfare payments grow louder

The rising costs of living has welfare advocates increasingly concerned about low welfare payments.

The St Vincent de Paul Society recently called on the Federal Government to bolster JobSeeker by $436 a fortnight via “moderate increases” to taxes targeted at the wealthy.

The CEO of ACOSS, Dr Cassandra Goldie, has called for an increase to JobSeeker and other welfare payments to a minimum of $70 a day.

“Right now, the punishingly low Jobseeker rate of $46 a day is forcing people to make heartbreaking decisions between paying their rent or buying food and medicine,” Goldie said.

“For those living in flood-affected areas, this stress has only been compounded. People on temporary visas face destitution.”

The Grattan Institute has also pointed to the inadequacy of Rental Relief payments, noting that the typical renter spends more than 10 times as much on rent than they do on petrol.

However, most of the cost-of-living relief in the 2022 Federal Budget focused on reducing the cost of fuel and short-term income support.

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