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Free money: Most Aussies want no-strings-attached income

Jessica Yun
·4-min read
Australian notes and coins spilled out on a table
A majority of Aussies are supportive of universal basic income, a new YouGovpoll commissioned by the Green Institute has found. (Source: Getty)

More than half of Australians (58 per cent) support the idea of a universal basic income, a new poll has found.

Universal basic income (UBI) is a concept whereby a government makes regular cash payments, with no or minimal conditions to adults, that would allow them to cover their basic needs.

A YouGov poll of 1,026 Australians commissioned by the Green Institute, an Australian Greens think tank, found that 29 per cent of Aussies “strongly support” the idea of UBI, with 29 per cent “somewhat support[ive]”.

Additionally, the poll found half of Aussies agreed that “unconditional income support” should be provided to those out of work, without needing to apply for “a certain number of jobs or to complete a specified number of hours of designated work activities”.

Green Institute executive director Tim Hollo said the current welfare system was “surveillance-based” that “punishes and stigmatises people on income support”.

“This poll should well and truly squash that assumption and open up space in Australian politics for a different path – a path that sees us looking out for each other, helping each other to find our feet, making sure nobody slips through the cracks,” he said.

The pandemic saw JobSeeker boosted with a Coronavirus Supplement, originally of $550 that has now dropped down to $250. On 1 January, it will drop again to $150. At the peak of the pandemic, mutual obligations were suspended, the asset test waived and the income threshold increased.

But many of these conditional requirements for receiving JobSeeker have since returned. Since then, 234,000 Australians have had payments suspended, including more than 9,000 homeless people and 12,000 First Nations Australians, Hollo said.

“It’s clear that Australians recognise that these conditions are pointless, and it’s time to leave them in our past and move on together.”

Between December 2019 and May 2020, the number of Australians on JobSeeker doubled from 820,000 to 1.64 million. This figure only fell slightly in October to 1.35 million.

Hollo pointed out that trials are currently being conducted around the globe on UBI. A number of US states, including Alaska, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Iowa, North Carolina, Seattle, Denver, and Gary, Indiana all run various experiments and pilots for a time, Vox reported. Other countries include Canada, India, the Netherlands, Iran and Spain and more.

The biggest UBI experiment is being held in Kenya. Starting from 2016, roughly US 75 cents per adult a day is being handed out to more than 20,000 people across 245 rural villages, delivered monthly for 12 years.

Prominent figures who have drawn attention to UBI include former US presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who promised to give away US $1,000 a month to 10 randomly selected families.

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa also sensationally announced on Twitter at the beginning of 2020 that he would give away 1 billion Japanese yen to 1,000 Twitter followers so long as they filled out follow-up surveys asking what impact the cash would have on their lives.

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Initial survey results found that those who received the cash became almost 4 times more interested in launching a new business; divorce rates dropped; and more than 70 per cent of recipients said they were happier, Vox reported.

Other well-known figures supportive of UBI include eBay founder Pierre Omidyar; Elon Musk; Facebook co-founders Mark Zuckerberg and Chris Hughes; Stephen Hawking; Pope Francis; Twitter founder Jack Dorsey; and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

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