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JobSeeker overhaul debated as Frydenberg plans ‘future rate’

Lucy Dean
·2-min read
Josh Frydenberg will make an announcement on the new JobSeeker rate. Images: Getty
Josh Frydenberg will make an announcement on the new JobSeeker rate. Images: Getty

Multiple benefits could be rolled into one streamlined and higher JobSeeker unemployment payment as pressure mounts for the Government to increase the rate.

The Government is reportedly considering a new single payment for JobSeeker recipients who also receive other minor payments, The Australian reported.

Under the plan, up to 20 low-value legacy payments would be absorbed into a higher JobSeeker payment, with an overall goal of increasing the total payments received.

Australians are currently receiving low-value supplements like telephone allowances, literacy supplements and utilities allowances. This plan is in line with the 2014 McLure review into Australia’s welfare system which called for more targeted and streamlined payments.

JobSeeker is scheduled to return to its pre-coronavirus rate at the end of March. That’s $565 a fortnight for a single non-renter without dependents, or just over $40 a day.

While Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has refused to comment on whether the JobSeeker rate will be permanently increased, he told Today that the government will “make an announcement about the future rate of that payment before the end of March”.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has also said the Government is “very close” to making a decision on the future rate of JobSeeker.

It comes amid warnings of an impending poverty and jobless crisis, as the JobKeeper payment is also scheduled to wind up at the end of March.

There are currently 1.6 million workers on the scheme, although Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy has said it’s difficult to say just how many will lose their jobs once JobKeeper ends.

Unions, social advocacy groups, the Labor Party, the Greens, the Business Council of Australia economists and even former Liberal prime ministers have called for the JobSeeker payment to be permanently increased.

"The old rate of JobSeeker was frozen for decades, leaving hundreds of thousands of people trapped in poverty," Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers said.

"When the government raised the rate last year, it righted that wrong."

However, returning to the previous rate will only undo that benefit.

"With wage subsidies coming to an end, more people will be surviving on JobSeeker," she said.

"A cut in March will plunge them into poverty at a time when they should be planning their recovery."

The Reserve Bank of Australia has also made it difficult for the Government to argue an economic case for JobSeeker to be cut.

Governor Philip Lowe said he agreed with the “wide consensus in the community” that raising JobSeeker permanently made economic sense.

Speaking in 2018, John Howard said the unemployment benefits freeze has “probably gone on too long”.

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