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Minimum wage decision is cold comfort for welfare recipients
Government cannot continue to ignore the urgent need to alleviate cost of living pressure for ALL people on low incomes
In the wake of the Fair Work Commission’s decision to raise the minimum wage in line with inflation the Antipoverty Centre is calling on the government to respond to the clearly spiralling food, energy and housing costs by immediately lifting welfare payment above the poverty line.
People on JobSeeker were surviving on a base payment that was roughly half the poverty line before the recent dramatic price increases for basic goods.
Quotes attributable to Antipoverty Centre spokesperson and JobSeeker recipient Jay Coonan
The Antipoverty Centre is relieved that some low paid workers will soon get a pay rise, many of whom do not earn enough to get above the poverty line. But $1 an hour is a pitiful increase that maintains the status quo and does not meaningfully improve lives – it won’t even buy an iceberg lettuce for a day’s work.
We are disturbed by the decision to delay the increase for workers in aviation, tourism and hospitality. There is no justification for prioritising businesses over the wellbeing of the workers they rely on.
Announcing the wages decision the Fair Work Commission president said “low paid workers are particularly vulnerable” – so what does that make the 5 million people who rely on poverty-level Centrelink payments?
Our payments are becoming worth less with each day, and so far we’ve heard nothing but repeated commitments from the new government to keep it that way.
Inflation is soaring as we head into a harsh winter and people can’t afford to heat their homes. The 9 out of 10 people on unemployment payments who were regularly skipping meals before costs skyrocketed are now eating even less.
The Antipoverty Centre is being contacted daily by people in despair, people who are ready to give up on their daily fight for survival, because they cannot continue under these ever-increasing pressures. It’s only made worse by growing fears about the looming introduction of Workforce Australia, which we expect will increase the number of people having their JobSeeker payment cut off altogether.
The welfare system is killing people, and we cannot reach any other conclusion than that our government is are happy for us to die from poverty, because our deaths will be invisible.
Anthony Albanese must live up to his rhetoric and urgently act to increase all Centrelink payments to at least the Henderson poverty line so we are better able to survive this crisis. Eligibility rules must be changed to ensure that everyone who needs support can access it.
The prime minister has said repeatedly that no one will be left behind. It’s past time for him to make good on this promise.
Media contact: 0403 429 414 / media at antipovertycentre.org
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About the Antipoverty Centre
The Antipoverty Centre was established in May 2021 by people living on Centrelink payments to counter problems with academics, think tanks and others in the political class making harmful decisions on behalf of people they purport to represent.
We have deep expertise in poverty, disadvantage and unemployment, because we live it. Our goal is to help ensure the voices and rights of people living in poverty are at the centre of social policy development and discourse. We believe there should be no decision made about us without us.
The Antipoverty Centre is not aligned with any political party and does not accept funding that places political constraints on our work.