Morrison doesn't need to know the JobSeeker rate, he needs to care for people who live on it
The prime minister's gaffe is irrelevant. His foolish comments about rent assistance show he doesn't comprehend the extreme inadequacy of Centrelink payments.
Scott Morrison has again shown how little thought and care he has for nearly 1 million people and their kids surviving on unemployment payments, which are about half the poverty line.
Included below: comments from Antipoverty Centre spokesperson Kristin O’Connell and poll results showing clear community support for a substantial JobSeeker increase.
Not only is the prime minister incapable of naming the figure we are forced to survive on, he is incapable of comprehending how absurdly low it is, regardless of whether it’s the actual rate of $46 a day or his $46 a week gaffe.
But as many have observed over the past week, gaffes are not the problem. The problem is, whether Morrison or Albanese, the people vying to lead the country do not understand the issues facing unemployed people or the numbers used to measure and dehumanise us.
Morrison’s claim that Commonwealth Rent Assistance – capped at $72 a week for people on JobSeeker – is adequate to support those trying to survive on a base payment of $321 a week is absolutely laughable.
Politicians choose to force people who need help into poverty, despite overwhelming community support for us to have enough to live. The solution is clear and every one of them knows it. They must return payments to at least the Henderson poverty line, as JobSeeker was in 2020. Payments must be available to all who need them, regardless of visa status or occupation.
Quotes attributable to Antipoverty Centre spokesperson Kristin O’Connell:
Right now neither Morrison or Albanese are offering any hope to people who rely on Centrelink payments to survive, and no reason for us to vote for them.
It doesn’t matter that Morrison can’t name the JobSeeker rate, it matters that people on it can’t afford to live.
Politicians do not understand what the unemployment rate means for people who can’t find paid work. They do not understand what the JobSeeker rate means for the people they choose to keep in poverty.
They do not understand because they do not care.
Morrison refuses to take his duty of care for us seriously. That is clear from his ridiculous answer when asked about support for people who can’t afford to live.
Morrison claims Commonwealth Rent Assistance is the solution, but it does nothing to address our growing inability to afford enough food, to pay our bills, to get adequate healthcare.
Rent assistance is so low it traps people in unsafe homes. It traps people because it is too low, but also because the rules to access it exclude anyone who can’t afford to pay rent without it – the rules mean you have to have a rental agreement before you can even get the measly payment, which is capped at $72 a week.
Rent assistance will not solve the cost of living crisis, it merely funnels more public money into greedy landlords’ pockets. Social housing will not solve the cost of living crisis, we cannot eat a slim promise of relief at some distant point in the future.
Politicians choose to force people who need help into poverty despite overwhelming community support for us to have enough to live. The solution is clear and every one of them knows it. We must return payments to at least the Henderson poverty line, as JobSeeker was in 2020. Payments must be available to all who need them, regardless of visa status or occupation.
While politicians attempt to ignore us and downplay the problem when forced to talk about it, they cannot hide from the poverty crisis they’ve created and it’s their responsibility to get us out of it.
Media contact: 0413 261 362 / media at antipovertycentre.org
Strong community support for JobSeeker increase
An August 2019 Essential poll found 84% believed that no one in Australia should go without essentials like food, healthcare and power. Only 30% believed it would be better to spend money on services instead of increasing unemployment payments.
A May 2020 Essential poll found 57% support for JobSeeker being at least as high as the age pension, including 51% of Coalition voters.
An Ipsos poll released in August 2021 found 77% of people supported a liveable income guarantee above the poverty line.
A November 2021 Ipsos poll found 65–74% support for JobSeeker payments to be above the poverty line in Liberal-held marginal electorates. The electorates polled were Boothby, Swan, Longman, Blair and Dobell. Between 49% and 60% of voters in the five seats said they would consider changing their vote to a party that would lift the rate above $69 a day.
Click here to download a background document containing key statistics related to poverty and unemployment and links to all sources.
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.