JobSeeker increase set for swift passage through parliament

Families and Social Services Minister Anne Ruston. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Families and Social Services Minister Anne Ruston. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The Morrison government's $50-per-fortnight JobSeeker rise has a clear path through Parliament, with Labor to support the increase despite criticising it as inadequate.

Legislation to bump the base rate of the unemployment benefit from April 1 was introduced to the lower house on Thursday, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced changes to Australia's social security system earlier this week.

The government wants the increase legislated by March 18.

A senate committee will examine the legislation, with their report due on March 12.

Opposition social services and families spokeswoman Linda Burney confirmed Labor would not oppose the increase, which amounts to an extra $3.50 per day.

But Ms Burney argued the modest increase would not address cuts she said the Coalition had made to social security, families and the pension in the past seven years, or the lack of jobs and poverty.

Labor has been campaigning for an increase to the permanent rate of JobSeeker, but has stopped short of saying exactly how much the unemployment benefit should be.

Ms Burney said Labor would balance payment rates against investment in jobs, housing, health and education.

"Labor will make helping those who need it the most the priority," she said.

While Labor won't oppose the government's legislation when it is introduced, its senators did back a Greens motion late on Wednesday calling for last-minute rethink of the changes.

Greens senator Rachel Siewert's motion argued the Morrison government was making a "deliberate choice to keep people on the JobSeeker payment living in poverty by keeping the payment below the poverty line".

Senator Siewert's motion called for the amount to be raised above the poverty line.

The changes announced on Tuesday, which included new mutual obligation for job seekers, were widely condemned by welfare groups.

While the base rate will be permanently increased on April 1, the new amount is $100 lower each fortnight than what a single adult with no children on JobSeeker currently receives when the $150 coronavirus supplement is factored in.

The emergency supplement, which was as high as $550 per fortnight when it was introduced at the height of the pandemic, will be scrapped at the end of March.

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The Australian Council of Social Service, which had been pushing for a $25-per-day lift, lashed the $3.50 increase as a "heartless betrayal of millions of people with the least".

Mr Morrison has defended the size of the planned increase, which brings the rate of JobSeeker to about 41 per cent of the national minimum wage.

He has repeatedly stated that many of those on JobSeeker receive payments in addition to the base rate, including rental assistance and other supplements.

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This story JobSeeker increase set for clear passage despite criticism first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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