“[The $3.57 per day JobSeeker increase] will soon get gobbled up when the powers that be put up groceries and rent which is what happens every time. So really it is a drop in the ocean.”— JobSeeker recipient living in Tasmania
Yesterday’s decision by the Morrison Government to pass the JobSeeker bill without amendment and return 30,000 of our fellow Tasmanians to life below the poverty line at the end of March was both callous and short-sighted.
We’ve experienced what living on the lowly rate of JobSeeker looks like. We’ve heard the stories of despair and the insidious choices that come with living well below the poverty line: choices between being warm enough to sleep or feeding your family, between accessing essential health care and medicines for yourself or your children.
We also know that the former rate of JobSeeker — accounting for the $550 Coronavirus Supplement — afforded thousands of Tasmanians, many for the first time, the financial means to afford the basics. Be it fresh food and vegetables, rent and electricity, a visit to their local GP or the ability to reskill and retrain in order to be job-ready.
Come the end of this month these aspirations for a better life will have to be put on hold. By trapping people in poverty, the Morrison Government is placing a handbrake on our recovery and the ability for Tasmanians to seek out opportunities in the post-COVID-19 economy.
Getting our state back on its feet both socially and economically is the priority for all of us during what will no doubt be a long recovery. In policy terms, that means providing support at levels that assist people to get job-ready and back into work — a measure against which the JobSeeker payment is unfit for purpose.
The State Government’s plans for medium- to long-term recovery were firmly in the spotlight this week with the release of the Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Council Final Report. While there is a great deal of information and recommendations to review, on first viewing we were pleased to see a range of initiatives included which the community services industry have been calling for. We will now review the full report along with the 52 recommendations, so look out for a special edition of TasCOSS enews in the coming weeks.