homeless, JobSeeker, Federal Budget

JobSeeker: all for one and one for all



Stoic philosopher Seneca famously noted that ‘Being poor is not having too little, it is wanting more’.

I love Stoic wisdom, but Seneca was wrong.

When you live on JobSeeker in Australia, you are not living, but existing on am amount below poverty level. There are about 1.4 million people in this parlous state.

So the reported Federal Budget initiative of increasing this amount by an extra $52 a fortnight for a select group – for those aged between 55 and 60 – is a seriously bad idea.

Don’t get me wrong. I fully appreciate the needs of those aged 55 and older who are out of work. I’ve been writing about their predicament for more than a decade. But singling out one group to receive extra benefits can only have one effect – and that’s to pit the generations against each other.

Evidence of how divisive this could be was in one immediate reaction – a segment on Andy Park’s Drive show on Radio National where he asked, “Are intergenerational crims robbing today’s youth of future prosperity?

As well you might.

Is this anticipated measure stupid? Or cynical? Or simply short-sighted? Why would you favour one cohort of people in need over another?

I am proud to be a member of the Steering Committee of the EveryAGE counts campaign to fight ageism.

Note the name.

Every age.

For a government that was voted into power on the platform of no one left behind, this proposed change to JobSeeker would be a serious error. They have so many other tools at their disposal.

An increase to the basic payment for everyone on JobSeeker is obviously the best strategy. And this has been endorsed by groups across the political spectrum. It’s far more important than a Tasmanian footy stadium or billions of dollars for submarines when we have a track record of spending ever more on military equipment that quickly becomes obsolete. Don’t even get me started on Stage-Three tax cuts.

But if there cannot be an increase in JobSeeker for all recipients, then maybe there needs to be a significant boost to Commonwealth Rent Assistance for all those missing out on secure accommodation, because they are not homeowners. Maybe higher supplements for all ages on JobSeeker would be fairer – or a one off payment across the board. Although this is short-term relief, at least it is more equitable. Perhaps a rent freeze would also work? Or allowing people of all ages to work more before losing basic benefits? We’re supposed to have a skills shortage after all?

Yes, Jim Chalmers, this is a difficult balancing act.

But there is STUFF YOU CAN DO! Things that are far fairer than the suggested increase for older Australians only.

Above all, giving dignity and hope to all in need – regardless of age – should be your top priority.