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PM considers raising JobSeeker’s $40-a-day base rate

Jessica Yun
·3-min read
Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference on October 16, 2020 in Sydney, Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has indicated that an increase to base JobSeeker payment is not off the table.

The JobSeeker payment, which replaced Newstart, is currently $565.70 a fortnight. However, this was effectively doubled to $1,115.70 after the $550 Coronavirus Supplement, which came into place on 27 April.

The boost was dropped down to $250 on 25 September, and yesterday Morrison announced a further extension of the supplement to 31 March, albeit at a lowered rate of $150 per fortnight.

When questioned by a journalist yesterday on whether the base rate would be raised, Morrison indicated the Government had not ruled it out.

“We haven't made a final decision on that,” he said.

Referring to the supplement, Morrison said he was focused on the “emergency measures” put in place amid the pandemic.

“There are issues that relate to [what] you have raised – they are certainly there. But right now what matters is the supports that will continue to be provided at these elevated and temporary levels.”

“We will consider those other matters at a later time and now we will focus on the support needed in the middle of this recession.”

Several groups have criticised the Government for not doing enough to support Australians on welfare in the long term and argued that the base rate puts Aussies below the poverty line.

“A permanent increase to income support payments would go a long way in injecting more money into the economy and relieve the pressure on organisations like Mission Australia who provide emergency relief and homelessness services,” Mission Australia CEO James Toomey said in July.

“We can’t turn back to $40 a day,” he added. “This will return people to poverty and leave them unable to meet their basic needs.”

A survey of 600 people by the Australian Council of Social Services revealed more than 80 per cent of people were able to eat better and more regularly, and more than 70 per cent were able to catch up on bills thanks to the $550 boost.

Nearly 59 per cent of people said the boost allowed them to move to better and safer accommodation, and 56.2 per cent said they were able to save up for emergencies.

Survey respondents were asked how a $300 cut to the supplement would affect them, and 80 per cent said they would have to skip meals and reduce their fresh food and vegetable purchases.

Multiple social services, charity and not-for-profit groups like ACOSS, Mission Australia, The Smith Family, St Vincent De Paul Society and Cancer Council Victoria have campaigned to ‘Raise the Rate’. Labor, Greens, the RBA and the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) also support a higher JobSeeker rate.

Business lobby groups and major professional firms such as the Business Council of Australia (BCA), KPMG, Deloitte and law firms such as Maurice Blackburn have backed the calls.

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