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‘People are desperate’: ScoMo infuriates with JobSeeker statement

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 25: Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference following a tour of the Sydney Coliseum Theatre at West HQ on June 25, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. The federal government has announced a $250 million support package for the arts and cultural sectors to assist in economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding package includes $90 million in government-backed concessional loans to fund new productions and a $75m grant program that will provide capital to help Australian production and events businesses put on new festivals, concerts, tours and other events as social distancing restrictions ease. (Photo by Matt Blyth/Getty Images)
The Prime Minister has been criticised for his JobSeeker claim. (Photo by Matt Blyth/Getty Images)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s claim that Australians aren’t looking for work due to the JobSeeker payment being too generous has been savaged by social welfare advocates, who have called for a permanent increase.

Morrison believes the increased JobSeeker rate has become a barrier to Australians seeking employment, telling 2GB that businesses have found it harder to find staff.

JobSeeker payments were doubled from $275 a week to $550 a week during the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are getting a lot of anecdotal feedback from small businesses, even large businesses," he said.

"Some of them are finding it hard to get people to come and take the shifts because they're on these higher levels of payment."

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But the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) has warned that there is just one job available for every 13 people seeking work on JobSeeker or Youth Allowance, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Additionally, new research from the Australian National University has found 15.1 per cent of people were unable to meet their regular housing costs in May - up from 6.9 per cent in April.

“We have just experienced the largest fall in jobs since the Great Depression. More people than ever before will struggle to find paid work. We’ve just seen 6,000 job losses at Qantas and thousands more in retail, including at Woolworths,” ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said.

“People are desperate to find jobs but there are not enough available. The doubling of JobSeeker to the current rate $550 per week is still $200 per week less than the minimum wage.”

She said inadequate payments are an impediment to people finding paid work, as the ability to cover the basics and avoid financial distress is critical to seek employment.

Queensland Labor Senator Murray Watt also slammed the Prime Minister’s words, sharing ABS data showing job vacancies.

The Australian Unemployed Workers Union, which represents unemployed Australians seeking work, also hit back at Morrison’s claims with a satirical list of verifiable claims of workers turning down work.

Novelist and comedian Dom Knight also queried the claim.

“It’s interesting hearing everyone say how JobKeeper is creating disincentives to work. I talked to a bartender on the weekend – before I read anything about this – who said he can’t turn down any shift because otherwise he’ll lose his $750/week!” Knight said on Twitter.

The Grattan Institute has called for JobSeeker to be increased by at least $100 a week and open to more Australians.

It also called for JobKeeper to be extended into 2021 and expanded to scoop up previously ineligible workers in the tourism, arts and university sectors.

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