The federal government will extend the JobSeeker Coronavirus supplement for an extra three months, to the end of March, at a cost of $3.2 billion.
The supplement, which is currently $250 a fortnight, will be at a reduced rate of $150 a fortnight during that period.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the financial “lifeline” that had been extended during the COVID crisis could not be allowed now to hold Australia back, as the country moved into the next phases of recovery.
The extension is a recognition that longer-term assistance is needed for the high number of people who will be unemployed early next year and that extra stimulus is needed to help lift the economy out of recession as soon as possible.
But the government is still avoiding the question of what change it will make to the base JobSeeker rate, which was widely recognised as inadequate long before the pandemic.
At the same time, the government is pushing a tougher approach to trying to ensure people take what jobs are available.
Morrison told a news conference mutual obligation requirements were being enforced. There were nearly 260,000 suspensions between September 28 and October 31, and from August 4 to October 31, 242 payments were cancelled.
“So the mutual obligation requirements are there and we are serious about them. But we are also serious about the support we need to provide to Australians,” Morrison said.
“We are seeing confidence return, whether it’s on the NAB measures just released today, the ANZ measures showing confidence getting above where it was pre-pandemic or the Westpac figures that were released for last month,” Morrison said.
“Australia is safely reopening and it needs to remain safely open. Jobs are returning. Job advertisements have doubled since May on the most recent figures in October, and we know that employers are looking for people to come back to work and we need to ensure that we have the right settings in place to support that.”
The shadow minister for families, Linda Burney, said the government would “cut unemployment support by $100 per fortnight after Christmas.
"With the Morrison Government expecting 1.8 million Australians to be on unemployment support by the end of the year, now is not the time to cut unemployment support. There are simply not enough jobs for every Australian who needs one.”
Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra