The Guardian • Issue #2050

Raise the rate raises the roof

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2050
Man going through a public garbage bin.

Man going through a public garbage bin.

So many different sources are speaking out against the Albanese government’s refusal to “raise the rate” – meaning increase Jobseeker, Commonwealth Rent Assistance, and related allowances – that it might be easier to say who doesn’t want the rate raised.

St Vincent de Paul Society, aka Vinnies National President Mark Gaetani said “We have been calling for increases to JobSeeker and Commonwealth Rent Assistance for years. They are woefully inadequate, and nothing will change unless we prioritise these areas.”

ACOSS, the Australian Council of Social Services started the campaign to raise the rate and is calling for a permanent and adequate increase to JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, Austudy, Abstudy, Special Benefit, and Parenting Payment to at least $76 a day.

The Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee, the welfare advisory panel set up by the Albanese government has said that Jobseeker payments are “seriously inadequate”. Members of the Committee have spoken of hearing from “people who live on income support having to choose between paying for their medicine or electricity bills.”

Bill Shorten, the Minister for Government Services has said “We can only do what is affordable”. This is from a government that thinks it’s affordable to give more than $200 million in tax cuts, mainly to people earning more than $200 thousand a year.

Independent senator David Pocock has pointed out that one in six Australian children grow up in poverty, while Greens leader Adam Bandt has described the ALP’s attitude to Jobseeker as one that Scott Morrison would be proud of.

Some of the criticism is coming from within the tent. The Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee includes Jenny Macklin, a former government minister in the Gillard government.

We often hear that poverty “is a choice” in Australia. This is very true of the low rate of Jobseeker.  It is a choice driven by ideology and by fear. Neoliberal ideology insists that Jobseeker has to be low in order to give unemployed people an incentive to look for work.  Never mind that it’s now so low that it acts as a barrier to seeking work, as unemployed people are too preoccupied with survival to look for work effectively!

Fear? Well, the ALP is fearful of attacks from the Liberal side of politics, fearful of being criticised for being “soft” on the unemployed.

The Communist Party of Australia’s political resolution states that the Party “will continue to campaign for a living income, above the poverty line, for all unemployed.”

Write to your MP and demand Labor increase Jobseeker to a living wage.

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