House debates

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Questions without Notice

Pensions and Benefits

2:41 pm

Photo of Linda BurneyLinda Burney (Barton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. By Christmas, 160,000 Australians will join the one million already unemployed and JobSeeker will be cut to just $40 a day. Why is this government racking up a trillion dollars of Liberal debt during the Morrison recession while making it harder for families to put food on the table and presents under the Christmas tree?

Photo of Stuart RobertStuart Robert (Fadden, Liberal Party, Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for her question. Just so the House is aware, as at 25 September, 648,621 women and 751,237 men are receiving JobSeeker payments, and over 100,000 are on payment but not receiving anything because of the income or asset threshold. At present, the decision of the government is for the coronavirus supplement to be set at $250, and that will be reviewed as we come closer to Christmas. But it's important the House also understand that that payment is not the only payment that people receive. For everyone who receives JobSeeker payment, their eligibility for some other form of assistance is also available. On top of the existing JobSeeker rate, there's the $250 coronavirus subsidy; rent assistance, up to $185 a fortnight for families with three or more children and $164 for families with one or two children; family tax benefit part A per child, up to $246 a fortnight for children aged 13 to 19; family tax benefit part B per family, up to $161 a fortnight for children under five years; pharmaceutical benefit of $6.20 a fortnight; telephone allowance; and energy supplements. Indeed, 99.9 per cent of all people who are receiving a safety net are also eligible for another payment.

The government understands the difficult circumstances that Australians are in, which is why the budget has delivered unprecedented supports, to respond to an unprecedented, one-in-100-year pandemic. We're very cognisant of it. We're cognisant of the needs of Australians and we're cognisant of delivering for them. For example, right now, when it comes to delivering on claims, the number of actionable claims on hand in Services Australia is 22,000, which is 1¼ days worth. If you put a claim for JobSeeker in now, that claim will be processed within 36 hours. Today, Services Australia will answer over 150,000 calls to the social services and welfare line. Each call will be answered in under a minute. Since 1 July this year, unfortunately, we have call-waited or hung up on 45 Australians, mostly because of a technical issue. This time 10 years ago it was 6.2 million who were hung up on. Forty-five versus 6.2 million—that's the level that we are investing in serving Australians. We are cognisant of the needs of Australians. That's why the budget is so focused on delivering crucial supports when they're needed.