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PM must recall parliament to reinstate COVID supplement for people on Centrelink payments
Government vaccination disaster left us exposed to COVID, they must take responsibility and make income support liveable
We are in a rapidly escalating health and economic crisis of Scott Morrison’s own making. This is an emergency and it is in his power to recall parliament this week – the Antipoverty Centre calls on the government to take our safety seriously, do just that and bring social security payments back above the poverty line.
The prospects of Sydney emerging from lockdown in the near future are slipping further and further away, and so are the prospects of people who are out of waged work finding a job.
The country is now struggling with the same challenges we faced at the height of the pandemic last year and we need to respond with the same urgency. Pitiful economic support payments with absurdly restrictive eligibility criteria are nothing but a PR exercise.
Lockdowns mean that basic living costs go up. It means that some of the 257,000 people who have a low-paid job and depend on unemployment payments to survive will lose work. And it means some in insecure work will feel forced to go out into the community, creating a safety risk for themselves and others, simply because they have no other choice.
At least last year during Melbourne’s brutal winter lockdown most people were able to survive without extreme financial stress. The last thing we need while dealing with confusing public health messages and doubts about whether we should go to work is to be grappling with how we’re going to pay for the bare essentials.
We have seen state after state be forced in and out of snap lockdowns. There can be no certainty or financial stability for unemployed and insecure workers until there is an adequate safety net to give us confidence that we’ll be able to pay the rent. As the pandemic surges we cannot have people being put at risk of losing their home.
For as long as the government refuses to set income support above the Henderson poverty line, they must at least reinstitute the COVID supplement at its full rate of $550 per fortnight, including the removal of waiting periods and partner income tests.
The Antipoverty Centre calls on federal and state governments to take immediate action
Scott Morrison and state premiers must protect the most vulnerable in the community people by immediately:
Reintroducing the full COVID supplement of $550 per fortnight for all working age payments and extending it to people on the Disability Support Pension and Carers Payment
Removing barriers to income support to be consistent with settings that were in place last year, including the removal of needlessly onerous application processes, waiting periods, asset tests and the partner and parental income tests
Backdating income support payments for new recipients to the date they lost work
Suspending pointless, punitive ‘mutual’ obligations until at least 31 December 2021
Reintroducing eviction moratoriums and providing safe shelter for rough sleepers
Expanding eligibility for social security payments to everyone who needs support, regardless of their living arrangements, occupation or visa status
We reject the Labor Party’s impotent call for the return of payments that go directly into bosses pockets, when they should be standing up for all workers, waged and unwaged, demanding social security payments that are above the poverty line and easy to access.
If JobKeeper returns it should be at the full rate of $1,500 per fortnight for all recipients, and be expanded to all sectors including higher education, childcare and casual workers – regardless of how long they have been employed or their visa status. Transparency must be introduced and loopholes closed to prevent billionaires cashing in.
Quotes attributable to Kristin O’Connell, spokesperson for the Antipoverty Centre
“Announcements simply won’t be enough, we cannot wait another three weeks for the next scheduled sitting week. What are people supposed to do between now and then without financial support?
“The government has forced us into this devastating situation because of its vaccine rollout catastrophe. They shouldn’t punish the most vulnerable in society for their failures.
“People are living precariously, they are in debt from their landlords not giving relief at the end of the last eviction moratorium, rents have skyrocketed at the low end of the market and the cheap goods we rely on to survive have flown off supermarket shelves.
"As usual our governments are prioritising businesses over people, but this is not the time for a business-as-usual approach. Caring for people – all of us – helps businesses, but giving businesses money helps no one but shareholders and those who have their own company.
"People are already suffering. It’s going to be a disaster if they leave things as they are or just provide more help for business. Businesses don’t need to eat. Businesses don’t need medication. Businesses don’t need to stay warm in winter.
“Last year showed that this can be done. Scott Morrison must bring back the full COVID supplement immediately.
"When the COVID supplement was cut from $550 to $250 per fortnight in September last year, nearly 50,000 households lost the ability to raise funds for an emergency.1
“If they want to crow about how successfully they’ve managed the economy then they have no excuse for not providing crucial financial support to people at this distressing time.”
Media contact: 0413 261 362 / media at antipovertycentre.org
See Australian Bureau of Statistics household financial resources data, December 2020: https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/economy/finance/household-financial-resources