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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Scott Morrison to push through dole rise to help one million jobless Australians when JobSeeker ends

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Almost a million unemployed Australians are set to have their welfare payments permanently increased when the boosted JobSeeker payment ends next month.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to announce a rise in the dole to replace the $150-a-fortnight coronavirus supplement that comes to an end on March 31.

Without the increase, JobSeeker payments would fall back to a pre-pandemic base rate of $565 a fortnight.

Australians could be about to receive a permanent increase to their welfare payments when the JobSeeker coronavirus supplement comes to an end. Pictured is a woman wearing a mask outside a Centrelink in Bondi Junction, Sydney last year

Australians could be about to receive a permanent increase to their welfare payments when the JobSeeker coronavirus supplement comes to an end. Pictured is a woman wearing a mask outside a Centrelink in Bondi Junction, Sydney last year

Any changes to welfare payments would likely have to be legislated by next week to be effective by the time both the JobSeeker supplement and JobKeeper expire, a government source told The Australian.

Targeted wage subsidy support for industries hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic is also part of a raft of changes being considered by the federal government.

Both Labor and Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe called for a permanent increase to the dole.

The proposals – which could be finalised at a meeting of the federal cabinet budget committee on Friday – comes as the government considers streamlining Centrelink payment for the jobless into one. 

Some JobSeeker recipients are eligible for supplements that include pharmaceutical allowance, telephone, and utilities allowances, and the literary supplement. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to announce a rise in the dole to replace the $150-a-fortnight coronavirus supplement

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to announce a rise in the dole to replace the $150-a-fortnight coronavirus supplement

The federal government is also looking at streamlining income support into one single payment. Pictured, people are seen lining up in Melbourne in 2020

The federal government is also looking at streamlining income support into one single payment. Pictured, people are seen lining up in Melbourne in 2020

Every recipient also receives a fortnightly energy supplement. The top-up payments are worth as little as $4 a fortnight.

Those additional payments would all be scrapped as part of the measures to permanently boost the base rate of JobSeeker.    

But rent assistance and family tax benefits are likely to remain under the reforms, which are still being thrashed out.   

The government is adamant the coronavirus supplement will end as scheduled, but confirmed it is looking to increase the rate of JobSeeker rather than allowing it to return to $40 a day.

The federal government is reportedly examining axing multiple supplement payments in favour of providing one streamlined payment. Pictured, people are seen in long queues outside the Centrelink office in Southport, Gold Coast last year

The federal government is reportedly examining axing multiple supplement payments in favour of providing one streamlined payment. Pictured, people are seen in long queues outside the Centrelink office in Southport, Gold Coast last year

‘In terms of the rate and its future, we will consider that in the normal expenditure review committee process, and that’s what we’re doing right now,’ Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.

Social advocacy group Anglicare Australia said its polling of service agencies across the country showed 100 per cent of respondents said any cut would see more people needing help.

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

New figures released Monday show 785,000 jobs were created in the past seven months, while the unemployment rate dropped from 7.5 per cent in July to 6.6 per cent

New figures released Monday show 785,000 jobs were created in the past seven months, while the unemployment rate dropped from 7.5 per cent in July to 6.6 per cent

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

Last April, the introduction of the coronavirus supplement effectively doubled the rate of JobSeeker to $557.85 per week.

The supplement was cut in September to leaving JobSeeker recipients with $407.85 per week and then that was reduced again in December to $357.85 per week.

Under the current JobSeeker rates, a single person with no children can earn up to $715.70 a fortnight, which includes a base rate of $565.70 and the coronavirus supplement.  

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (pictured) while welcoming figures showing a decrease in JobKeeper recipients said some sectors will need support once the pandemic-inspired scheme cuts out

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (pictured) while welcoming figures showing a decrease in JobKeeper recipients said some sectors will need support once the pandemic-inspired scheme cuts out

JobSeeker supplement was introduced alongside JobKeeper, with the latter provided as a lifeline to businesses impacted by coronavirus restrictions to help retain staff.   

Recent figures from the Australian Taxation Office showed more than 2.13 million Australians were no longer receiving JobKeeper payments at the end of December.  

There were 1.54 million employees eligible for the wage subsidy between October and December last year, down from 3.6 million between April and September.

The biggest decrease came in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and South Australia while Victoria reported the smallest decrease. 

‘What these numbers show is a broad based recovery in the Australian labour market much better than we expected, even through the pandemic last year,’ Mr Frydenberg told ABC radio on Monday. 

JOBKEEPER FIGURES

JobKeeper registrations between the first phase (April to September) and second phase (October to December) were down in: 

– Retail trade (68 per cent)

– Accommodation and food services (52 per cent)

– Education and training (50 per cent)

– Wholesale trade (71 per cent) 

– Construction (48 per cent)

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JobKeeper will end on March 28 – six months later than first planned – but Mr Frydenberg conceded sectors like tourism, aviation and international education were still struggling and would need support once the pandemic-prompted scheme cuts out.

Mr Frydenberg said 785,000 jobs had been created in the past seven months, while the unemployment rate has dropped from 7.5 per cent in July to 6.6 per cent in December.

But ACTU secretary Sally McManus said the education, tourism and manufacturing sectors continue to be ‘smashed’ by the coronavirus pandemic.

‘What we say is JobKeeper should be extended for those businesses that are still affected by the coronavirus, through no fault of their own,’ she told the ABC.

Ms McManus said the support should continue ‘for as long as the pandemic is with us’.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers says the government not only has to focus on supporting businesses through the pandemic but deal with the broader issues of stagnant wages, underemployment and job insecurity.

‘It’s not a recovery if it’s built on the back of less secure work or weaker wages growth.’

This post was first published on DailyMail.

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