ACOSS boss Cassandra Goldie is calling for the payments to be raised by $24 a day – around $336 a fortnight.
“People in Australia know that it is counter-productive and cruel to expect people to live on $45 a day, the current JobSeeker amount. It forces them to skip meals and medicines,” she said in The Age.
Household disposable income rose during pandemic
“Almost all of us had either a direct brush with unemployment or witnessed someone else experience a tough time.
“This is fresh in the minds of voters and they want politicians to build a post-pandemic society that guarantees if you fall on tough times, you will be supported to cover the basics.”
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Ms Goldie believes a increase in Jobseeker should be a top priority for the government at it prepares the mid-year budget due to the uneven economic recovery from the pandemic.
Polling conducted by ACOSS revealed that in five must-win marginal seats across the country, almost three quarters of voters agreed that JobSeeker should be above the poverty line.
The survey of 2588 people in the Liberal-held seats of Boothby (SA), Swan (WA), Longman (Qld) and the Labor-held seats of Blair (Qld) and Dobell (NSW) also showed that 56 to 70 per cent of those asked thought the current payment of $45 was too low.
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At the onset COVID-19 in March 2020 in which hundreds of thousands of Australian’s joined welfare queues, a supplementary JobSeeker payment of $550 a fortnight was introduced.
However, the Morrison government phrased it out a year later, resisting calls to make it permanent.
Although the base rate was raised in February to $620.80 a fortnight, those receiving the benefit are left below the poverty line – which is around $920 a fortnight.
Economists Chris Richardson and Nicki Hutley believe the strong support for raising JobSeeker – revealed by the survey – reflects that millions of Australians know someone who has received payments during the pandemic.
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Mr Richardson told The Age increasing the payments was the most important step toward “fairness in Australia”.
“Over a quarter of a century the minimum wage has increased much more than unemployment benefits…and the cost to the budget is about a third as much as you think it is,” he said.
He said that increases in benefit payments also have a positive flow-on benefit to the economy.
“If you give money to poorer people in Australia they will spend it, and they tend to spend it locally.”

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