People should not be living in poverty in Australia

“The Coronavirus Supplement was life changing for people who had long survived on the abhorrent amount Newstart (or JobSeeker) had been set at for years. For so long, they had to be great money managers just to survive and find a way to pay for food, rent and even go without things like proper heating. For the first time, these people had breathing room and weren’t living in poverty, and all the stress that brings with it.” Dianne Dejanovic – Financial Counsellor, National Debt Helpline

Consumer Action has made a submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee’s inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Strengthening Income Support) Bill 2021 (the Bill).

In sum, we are bitterly disappointed by the Government’s decision to effectively reduce the fortnightly base rate of the JobSeeker payment back to $100 less than the Coronavirus Supplement. This is a heartless policy decision that leaves many Australian families facing the harsh reality of living below the poverty line. Asking a person to survive on $44 a day in Australia is effectively pushing them towards financial exclusion and hardship.

We welcomed the Federal Government’s income support packages in response to the COVID-19 crisis, which lifted thousands of Australians out of poverty. We urge the government to ensure that income support payments for working-age people do not return to below-poverty levels again.

In addition to our comments in this submission, we endorse the position of the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) on this issue. ACOSS and their associate organisations have unparalleled expertise in assisting the people this decision will directly impact, and we strongly endorse their recommendations regarding the increase in the payment necessary to properly provide for the millions of people relying on social security payments in Australia.

Read the submission (PDF).

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