Welfare recipients are in line for a $40-a-fortnight boost with parliament passing the increase, despite calls for the rise to be higher as the nation deals with a cost of living crisis.
Australians with no children on JobSeeker can expect to get about $749 a fortnight, up from just over $693, under the changes from September 20.
The top-up is made up of a $40-per-fortnight increase previously revealed in the federal budget, plus an extra $16 increase as part of regular indexation.
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The base rates of working-age and student payments, including Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment (Partnered), Austudy, ABSTUDY Living Allowance, Disability Support Pension (Youth), and Special Benefit, will increase by $40 per fortnight.
The Greens wanted to go further and raise the income support rate to $88 a day — or $1232 a fortnight — to bring it above the poverty line as the cost of living and housing crisis bites hard.
But the push failed after it was rejected by the government and opposition.
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Greens senator Janet Rice said it was disappointing the higher rate wasn’t supported because the one which was passed by parliament condemned vulnerable people to poverty.
“Which is absolutely bad for their wellbeing, their health and their ability to get a job — if you’ve got people living in poverty, you’re not in a position to be able to get a job,” Rice told the Senate.
“It is absolutely shameful.”
You can read more on the increases in the table below.
The rate for older Australians on JobSeeker will increase to $802.50 per fortnight.
Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment (Partnered), ABSTUDY Living Allowance, Disability Support Pension (Youth) and the Special Benefit will also increase by $40 per fortnight.
Single parents with children aged eight and above will be eligible for the higher Parenting Payment Single rate, which will add a further $177 each fortnight until their youngest child turns 14.
Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said the increases would ease cost of living pressures for around two million Australians.
Labor assistant minister Tim Ayres said the safety net bill marked a “very substantial improvement” in welfare that would make a real difference.
Senator Ayres said he respected arguments for higher welfare payments, but the government was dealing with significant pressures on the budget and increasing the rate further would cost “billions and billions of dollars”.
He said other cost of living measures had been introduced to work alongside the increase.
Independent senator David Pocock — who supported the Greens’ proposed rise to $88 a day — said the government was kidding itself if it thought it could save money on welfare expenditure and not pay for it in other sectors such as health and policing.
“We’re going to have to pick up the bill eventually and so it’s such short-term thinking to think that ‘oh, we can just rip away social security payments, have people living in poverty, and that’s better for taxpayers’ — it’s not,” he said.
“We will be paying the cost when it comes to the health of those people who can’t afford fresh food, who can’t afford the basic necessities in life and who certainly can’t afford to fulfil scripts, to go and see the GP when they need it.”
The opposition and the Greens pushed to increase the threshold people could earn before losing their benefits from $150 to $300.
But neither voted for each other’s amendments, as the Liberals kept theirs tied to the removal of the $40 increase.
Welfare recipients will get a boost to their payments from September. Credit: AAP
Liberal frontbencher Anne Ruston said incentivising people to work more hours was a better way to increase employment opportunities rather than just increasing welfare.
“We philosophically believe that increasing the income-free areas and taking away the barriers … is a much more effective way of getting people back into the workforce,” she said.
Senator Ayres said it would be too expensive to bake in the added expenditure into the budget and there was no evidence it would boost participation.
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