Stop playing cruel games on dole: Labor

Colin Brinsden
The government says claims of a permanent boost to unemployment benefits are factually incorrect

Federal Labor has accused the Morrison government of playing "cruel games" over the JobSeeker payment after the social services minister dismissed reports that the dole benefit would be permanently increased.

News Corp newspapers, citing senior ministers, on Sunday reported the JobSeeker payment would rise to $75 per day from $40 when the present enhanced version of the unemployment payment ends in September.

"What I can say about the story that was written today is there is no submission to the effect that has been reported in the paper," minister Anne Ruston told reporters in Adelaide on Sunday.

"We are very focused on the temporary measures we need to put in place to make sure that we can get Australians through this pandemic to the other side."

The JobSeeker payment, formerly known as Newstart, was doubled to around $1100 a fortnight as a support measure during the pandemic.

"The Morrison government needs to stop playing cruel games with over two million people in Australia, who rely on JobSeeker to put food on the table," opposition social services spokeswoman Linda Burney told reporters in Sydney.

Treasury has reviewed both JobSeeker and the JobKeeper wage subsidy, but the findings won't be released until July 23 when Treasurer Josh Frydenberg delivers a much-anticipated economic statement.

"At the time, we said they were targeted, they were temporary, they were measured and they still are and we are working in that environment of transition at the moment. We're not looking at the long-term," the minister said.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said the government was keeping the review secret until after Saturday's Eden-Monaro by-election.

He said businesses are laying off workers because of the uncertainty this is creating.

"The government is holding businesses and workers hostage to the by-election date and putting politics before people once again," Dr Chalmers told AAP.

Senior Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek said people who had been forced onto the dole because of the coronavirus pandemic were in for a shock if the JobSeeker payment returned to its pre-crisis rate of $40 per a day.

"It is an inadequate payment, it doesn't allow people to live with dignity," she told Sky News' Sunday Agenda program.

The coalition government has long argued against raising the unemployment payment, which hasn't been increased for 25 years apart from indexation increases.

There is widespread support for an increase from Labor, the Greens, welfare groups, business organisations like the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Industry Group, economists and the Reserve Bank.

Australian Council of Social Service CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said the rate of JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and other income support payments need to be raised for good so that everyone had enough to cover the basics of life, like a roof over their head and food on the table.

"As we handle the COVID-19 health crisis and confront the economic crisis, more people than ever before will struggle to find paid work," she warned in a statement.