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Govt flags 'time limited' Newstart boost

Anastasia Santoreneos
·3-min read
The government has flagged a temporary raise in the Newstart rate. Source: Getty
The government has flagged a temporary raise in the Newstart rate. Source: Getty

Australians on the newly-named Jobseeker Payment, formerly Newstart, could get a boost to their welfare payments - but the government warns this is “strictly time limited”.

The Jobseeker Payment is tipped to ramp up, with the government expected to offer family tax benefits and rent assistance as the coronavirus forces businesses to axe staff, the Age reported.

But the hike in the dole will be temporary, as opposed to a permanent raise in the base rate as social groups and vulnerable Aussies have wanted.

“Folks, it’s looking like there’ll be a temporary raise to Newstart for all,” Jeremy Poxon. Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union member tweeted.

Poxon pledged to “fight like hell” to make the raise permanent, saying it will be “hard” for the government to reduce the rate once it’s been raised.

"There will be Australians over the next six months who, through no fault of their own, will find themselves with less work, with less income, and in the worst case, without a job," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

"People who have never known themselves to be out of work will be confronted in some cases with that prospect.”

The current dole rate sits below the poverty line. For perspective, the median full-time wage in Australia is $68,000, and the Jobseeker Payment (Newstart) safety net equates to less than $14,500.

Social services groups like ACOSS have been calling for the government to raise the rate by $95 per fortnight, but Aussies are saying more is needed.

News of a raise comes days after the government flagged it would introduce a two-tier unemployment system.

The government reportedly floated the idea of a transitional income support, available to those who would lose their jobs due to the coronavirus - one that would be set a higher rate than the dole, enraging Aussies.

“So now we’ll have two classes of unemployed. Why not increase Newstart and give everyone a fighting chance?” one user tweeted.

“Amazing how concern for how low Newstart is has been used not to increase Newstart, but to ensure the Deserving Unemployed people get a better deal,” another added.

Mutual obligations relaxed

After the Prime Minister’s advice to socially distance amid the covid-19 crisis, Australians on welfare have finally seen their mutual obligations relaxed.

The mutual obligations require jobseekers to attend in-person meetings with their jobactive providers at their local Centrelink office, to ensure they are still applying for work in order to receive their payments, but have now gone digital.

Jobseekers will be allowed to request that their face-to-face meetings switch to online channels such as Skype.

They’ll also be allowed to complete training activities like CV writing online. Job fairs have been postponed, as have Centrelink’s ‘work for the dole’ programs.

In the UK, the Department for Work and Pensions revealed it would suspend its rigid welfare conditionality rules, including face-to-face ‘jobcentre interviews’ and the requirement that jobseekers demonstrate they have spent up to 35 hours per week looking for work.

But Employment Minister Michaelia Cash advised mutual obligations will remain in place for “as long as compatible with the advice of health authorities”.

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