JobSeeker decision due in early December

Rebecca Gredley
·2-min read
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 24: Peopler queue to enter Centrelink on March 24, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Non-essential travel has been banned in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Australia while venues such as bars, clubs, nightclubs, cinemas, gyms and restaurants, along with anywhere people remain static are now closed. Schools are currently open but parents have the option to keep children at home if they wish. There are now 1887 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia and the death toll now stands at eight. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Unemployed Australians should know by December what the rate of JobSeeker will be next year, with elevated payments likely to continue temporarily.

It's unlikely the government's decision will relate to the permanent rate of the payment.

Instead, it will probably extend the coronavirus supplement.

Jobless people are receiving $250 more a fortnight than usual with the supplement, after it shrunk from $550 at the height of the pandemic.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said a decision would be made based on economic conditions.

"If the evidence supports the continuation of elevated levels of support, they will be made available to Australians who need them," she told a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday

"On the 1st of January there is very likely to be continued elevated levels of support, recognising that we still are in a pandemic and we still don't know when this pandemic is going to end."

Labor's social services spokeswoman Linda Burney is calling on the government to extend the $250 fortnightly boost until March, in line with when the JobKeeper wage subsidy ends.

There are currently about 1.5 million Australians on JobSeeker and a raft of other welfare supports.

Treasury estimates that to rise to about 1.8 million people towards the end of the year and remain around 900,000 in four years' time.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday gave his strongest indication yet the coronavirus supplement could be extended into next year.

The welfare boost is due to end in December and the government has to legislate a further extension.

Mr Morrison said a decision would be made before parliament rises for the year on December 10 so it can be stamped into law.

Without the coronavirus supplement, the dole payment would return to its pre-pandemic rate of $40 a day.

The asset test restarted in late September, with officials on Wednesday confirming it led to 27,000 Australians being kicked off JobSeeker.

Another 4000 have had their payments paused while they gather further information for the government.

Centrelink will also resume its debt recovery program from November 2, with the agency set to chase welfare recipients for overpayments from February next year.

The Greens have described the decision to restart the program during a recession as a disgrace.