Uncertainty lingers for unemployed people

Daniel McCulloch
·2-min read

Jobless Australians will have to wait months for further details on the future of JobSeeker payments.

The mid-year budget update provided no clarity on the rate of the unemployment benefit beyond March, when coronavirus supplements are due to expire.

Unless the top-up payments are extended or permanently baked into the dole, the payment will return to the pre-pandemic rate of just $40 a day.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said even at the tapered rate of $150 a fortnight, the supplements came at a $3 billion cost to the budget.

Senator Birmingham said 740,000 Australians had re-entered the workforce in the past six months.

He said 85 per cent of the 1.3 million Australians who either lost their jobs or went to zero hours at the height of the pandemic were now back in work.

"We'll continue to monitor all the circumstances as we get closer to the end of March and work out the next steps in relation to the different aspects of our support programs," Senator Birmingham said on Friday.

Labor's finance spokeswoman Katy Gallagher said it was unacceptable for the government to keep JobSeeker recipients in the dark.

"They have had probably four or five opportunities to put a permanent increase in place for JobSeeker," Senator Gallagher said.

"We don't think it's acceptable that people should be expected to live on forty dollars a day, it's not enough, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that.

"The government is continuing to refuse to give those who are relying on JobSeeker that certainty."

JobKeeper wage subsidies are also set to expire in March.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has ruled out extending the program.

"Certainly our plan has always been for it to be temporary and that means ending at the end of March," Mr Frydenberg said.