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13 April 2022

Independent Senator Rex Patrick today condemned the Labor Party’s refusal to commit to an additional increase to the JobSeeker payment and to drop plans for a review into the rate.

“This is a very disappointing decision from Labor that demonstrates little regard for the cost-of-living pressures that are bearing down on economically disadvantaged and vulnerable Australians,” Senator Patrick said. 

“Labor, like the Coalition, appears quite prepared to leave JobSeeker recipients struggling well below the poverty line.” 

“All too often Labor says one thing during long years of opposition, but recants as soon as they think they have a chance of winning Government.” 

“If re-elected to the Senate, I will seek to amend any relevant Budget or Social Security legislation that passes through the Senate to bring the issue to a head."

“Whoever wins Government at the election should have to deal with this issue as a matter of priority and be prepared to raise the JobSeeker rate before the end of the year.” 

In 2019, before the last federal election, then Labor leader Bill Shorten promised a review into the rate of what was then the Newstart payment, suggesting that it would be used to determine an increase in payments.

In April 2020, Labor Senators supported a Senate Committee report that examined the adequacy of Newstart and related payments that, among other things, recommended:

  • That the Australian Government, in collaboration with academic experts and the community sector, should set a national definition of poverty.
  • That the Australian Government should immediately undertake a review of the income support system to ensure that all eligible income support recipients do not live in poverty.
  • That once the Coronavirus Supplement was phased out, the Australian Government should increase the JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance and Parenting Payment rates to ensure that all eligible recipients do not live in poverty.

On 24 February last year, following the Coalition Government’s announcement of a measly $3.57 a day increase in the Jobseeker base rate, the Labor Opposition voted for a Senate motion that condemned the Coalition for ‘making a deliberate choice to keep people on the JobSeeker Payment living in poverty by keeping the payment below the poverty line’; and called on the Government ‘to immediately revise its announcement and urgently increase JobSeeker Payment to be above the poverty line.’ 

Yesterday, however, when asked by the Australian Council of Social Service to clarify Labor’s position on the JobSeeker payment, Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh said: ‘We haven’t committed to an additional increase.’

Leigh further confirmed that Labor had dropped their previous commitment to review the Jobseeker rate, saying ‘We don’t have a plan for an independent review at this stage.’

Senator Patrick said: “All too often Labor says one thing and then backflips. This is a classic example. Very obviously they are letting opinion polls and focus groups determine their policy priorities.”

“One way or another, however, this critical social issue must be dealt with.  Millions of Australians cannot be left on an allowance that is well below the poverty line, especially while soaring prices and rents make their position all the more untenable.”

“In the case of a possible Labor Government, it will certainly be an early test of whether they have any lingering commitment to the social justice values they claim to hold.”