Senate debates

Monday, 23 August 2021


COVID-19: Pensions and Benefits

1:34 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to speak about income support during lockdown. If we are going to beat this virus then we have to pay people to stay at home. Lockdowns are hurting people, particularly those on low incomes. It is completely ridiculous, on one hand, to tell people that they have to stay at home and then, on the other hand, to not offer some additional support to do so.

Last year, we had the coronavirus supplement and JobKeeper, which changed many people's lives and enabled them to survive through the lockdowns. But the government took those supports away far too early and cruelly, impacting many people right now. Punishment and punitive measures do not boost morale. They don't create goodwill in the community and they harm people on low incomes the most. By not providing people on the JobSeeker payment with extra support, they are punishing them. People are not coping with the impact of extended lockdowns. There's no proper financial support. Lifeline saw its three busiest days in history this month. We cannot ignore the financial stress of going into lockdown on individuals and families, particularly those on low incomes—those on JobSeeker who are trying to survive with no extra support.

The Prime Minister must take action to ensure that everybody is properly supported, and the best way to do that would be to reinstate the coronavirus supplement. People cannot survive on $44 a day. If you are told to isolate and you have to go and get a coronavirus test, how do you afford to take a taxi or an Uber? If you are immune compromised, how do you get your groceries delivered? If you're on a low income, of course you are going to try to go out and find additional income, because the government is not adequately supporting those on low incomes in lockdown. It's time to make sure everybody can stay safe at home.