Govt knocks back its own panel’s call to boost JobSeeker
The government appears poised to ignore its own experts' recommendations for a lift in JobSeeker. Photo: Getty
A senior Albanese minister has admitted he couldn’t live on the current JobSeeker payment, even as the government appears to knock back yet another call from experts for a significant boost.
Government Services Minister Bill Shorten conceded he couldn’t live on JobSeeker, but could not say if the government would back an increase to nearly $1000 a fortnight, as recommended by its own expert advisory panel appointed to look into the issue.
“The decision about raising any rate, it’s going to be one for the government and our economic team,” Mr Shorten told Sky News Australia on Wednesday.
“We can only do what is responsible and sustainable and, unfortunately, the budget that we inherited from the previous government is heaving with a trillion dollars of Liberal debt. So [we] can’t do everything.”
The report from the economic advisory panel, released on Tuesday night, urged the Albanese government to commit to boost the “seriously inadequate” JobSeeker by 40 per cent to just under $1000 a fortnight.
Overall, the panel made 37 recommendations worth about $34 billion overall.
It particularly called for a “substantial increase in the base rates for JobSeeker and related working age payments”, with a benchmark equivalent to 90 per cent of the age pension.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers said lifting JobSeeker to that level would cost $24 billion across the forward estimates, and a substantial lift has been ruled out.
Dr Chalmers said it “wasn’t possible to fund every good idea” but the budget would include measures to address disadvantage such as the energy bill price relief locked in late last year.
Independent senator David Pocock, who secured government support for the economic inclusion committee last year in exchange for his vote on the Albanese government’s workplace relations bill, said the government should prioritise communities that needed the most support.
“It appears that this Labor government can find extra money for just about anything – from inland rail cost blowouts to submarines – but it won’t do more to protect the most vulnerable,” he said.
Senator Pocock said he was “very disappointed” the government had no room for JobSeeker increases in the budget.
“I’m very disappointed with the response,” Senator Pocock told Sky News Australia.
“The committee said we recognise that the budget is tight so there could be a staged approach to ensuring the JobSeeker payments are going up over time.
“This is an investment in Australia’s future, in our families in our communities … and the kind of society we want to be going forward.”
Senator Pocock said voters would hold Labor to account over JobSeeker.
“If voters think that this is an issue, then they can they can vote at the next election and vote for someone who’s going to hear that call, and actually ensure that we are building the kind of communities and society that that people want to be part of,” he said.
“I think it’s a transparency measure. And I think over time, it’s going to be harder and harder for governments to continue to ignore expert advice.”
Greens leader Adam Bandt said Labor was forcing people to live in poverty while handing out tax cuts to billionaires and politicians.
“Labor is spending over half a trillion dollars on stage three tax cuts for the wealthy and on nuclear submarines while making the poor foot the bill,” he said.
Opposition finance spokeswoman Jane Hume said increasing JobSeeker by 40 per cent would be “enormously irresponsible”.
“JobSeeker was never supposed to be a wage subsidy. It’s always supposed to be a safety net,” she told Sky News.
“Particularly at a time when what the government should be doing is reining in its spending, because otherwise, you’re going to leave the RBA to do all the heavy lifting to reduce inflation.”