Permanent $75 a week boost could be coming for Jobseeker

Unemployed Australians are in line for a $75-a-week rise in benefits as the Morrison Government tries to virus-proof the community.

The permanent boost to ­unemployment benefits would take the base rate from $565.70 a fortnight to $715.70.

Senior ministers told The Sunday Telegraph yesterday the $75 rise was the preferred option for changes to unemployment benefits post the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rise would put an extra $3900 into the pockets of out-of-work Australians.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is expected to unveil a permanent boost to the dole as part of the mini-budget in July, when the Government outlines the next phase of its economic response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Despite pressure from economists, the Reserve Bank, welfare and business groups, the federal Government had resisted calls to increase the $40-a-day dole payment - previously called Newstart - until the pandemic hit.

Sydney residents in Darlinghurst lining up at Centrelink in March. In just three months, an extra 205,000 joined the dole queue.
Sydney residents in Darlinghurst lining up at Centrelink in March. In just three months, an extra 205,000 joined the dole queue.

At the height of the crisis, the welfare payment was lifted from a base rate of $565.70 a fortnight to $1115.70 as part of a temporary measure which expires in September. Several Government ministers confirmed the rate would be permanently lifted.

"There is no way it can go back to what it was. We have people on welfare that have never been out of work and now they are lining up outside Centrelink," one minister said.

It is understood a $75-a-week boost which would see the daily rate rise by $10, is currently the preferred option among Cabinet ministers.

It's estimated a $75-a-week increase would cost the federal budget $3.3 billion a year.

But a 2018 Deloitte analysis commissioned by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) found the $10 a day dole increase would boost consumer spending and help create more than 12,000 jobs.

"That money goes as extra income to a group that, on ­average, is the poorest of the poor in Australia. Other things equal, most of it is therefore spent. So it's no surprise that the bulk of the dollars - some $3.3 billion a year - show up as extra spending by consumers," the report found.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg resisted calls to increase the $40-a-day dole payment — previously called Newstart — until the pandemic hit.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg resisted calls to increase the $40-a-day dole payment — previously called Newstart — until the pandemic hit.

In just three months the ­unemployment rate has ­jumped from 5.1 per cent to 7.1 per cent as an extra 205,000 joined the dole queue. The ­National Party represents one third of the 25 electorates with the highest dependency on the Jobseeker, prompting its MPs to speak out.

First-term Nationals MP Pat Conaghan said the pre-COVID rate of Newstart was "inadequate".

"In Nambucca and Kempsey in my electorate, 41 per cent of kids under the age of 15 live below the poverty line," he said. "It's disgraceful."

The push to boost the Jobseeker rate comes as Treasury finalises its review of the $70 billion JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme which is due to ­expire in September.

Ministers are split on whether to roll back the scheme sector by sector, as it did with childcare workers, or stop the payment for all industries at the same time.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said the Government was clear all along that the measures are "temporary, targeted and scalable".



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