Last week the federal Parliament pushed through legislation to increase the rate of JobSeeker to $44 per day, well below the level that most business and community advocates say is adequate to enable people to live above the poverty line. During COVID, the JobSeeker Allowance (previously Newstart) was boosted in recognition that the jobs market was severely impacted by the pandemic, and those in receipt of the allowance had their income effectively doubled until the end of 2020. The rate has now come down, and was slated to return to the original rate of Newstart at the beginning of April 2021, but the legislation has now increased the daily rate by $3.57 to just over $44 per day.
There has been a significant outcry about not only the projected cut, and the impact it will have on people currently out of work and looking for jobs, but also the way in which the legislation was passed through Parliament without proper debate. Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, who has been campaigning for the daily rate to be raised to at least $80, was not even given the opportunity to speak to the bill, and instead had to table her speech for publication in Hansard. UnitingCare National Director, Claerwen Little, has spoken about the “avalanche” of assistance that will now be required of charities and not-for-profit organisations as people again struggle with homelessness, paying bills and making ends meet, as the new JobSeeker rate plunges people below the poverty line once more.
The requirements of those on JobSeeker to find work will also ramp up, with people required to apply for at least 20 jobs per month, or risk being breached and losing their allowance altogether. With one job for every nine applicants at the moment, and no responsibility being placed on Government to ensure there are jobs for those they place on JobSeeker to effectively “seek”, we are once more returning to nasty politics of victim-blaming, some of the pre-COVID “normal” that we hoped and prayed would not occur.
So what can you do?