Senate debates

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Questions without Notice

JobSeeker Payment

2:06 pm

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Families and Social Services) Share this | Hansard source

I thank Senator O'Sullivan for his question. The pandemic, as we all know, caused a once in a lifetime disruption to our labour market and we used our comprehensive welfare system to support Australians who found themselves unemployed through the emergency support measures that were put in place last year. Today we announced the transition from those temporary measures into a more permanent setting.

We know that the recovery of the Australian economy is now well underway, so we no longer are relying on those temporary supports which have sustained us over the last 12 months. On 31 March, the coronavirus supplement and associated measures will come to an end. In its place, in recognition that the Australian economy has changed as a result of the pandemic that has impacted our country over the last 12 months, we are seeking to increase the working age payments base rate permanently by an amount of $50 per fortnight per payment. This is the single largest increase in working age payments, or unemployment benefits, since 1986—that is, it will be a 9.7 per cent increase, year on year, from April 2020 to April 2021.

In addition to increasing the payment rate, we will also be increasing the income-free area to $150. This means every Australian on working age payments will be able to keep the first $150 that they earn in a fortnight before their payment is reduced by one cent. What we are seeking to do here is to get the balance right between supporting people as they look for work but also making sure that we put the right incentives in place for people to take up work. We also seek to remove the disincentives that are put in place for people to not take a job. This is a $9 billion investment in working age payments, and it is absolutely essential that we continue to support our working age payment recipients.


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