Too many left behind as government misses historic opportunity

Published
6 October 2020

People hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic will be left behind by a recession that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg labelled a “once-in-a-century shock”. The Brotherhood of St. Laurence (BSL) believes the federal government’s budget has missed an historic opportunity to bring all Australians along in the recovery from COVID-19.

While BSL was happy to see a focus on youth employment and training, the Morrison Government has offered very little support to others in need.

“This budget falls drastically short for Australians doing it tough,” says BSL Executive Director, Conny Lenneberg. “The government showed great leadership during this pandemic with initiatives like JobKeeper and the Coronavirus Supplement. But even though this crisis is far from over, the supplement has now been cut. People around the country still need help to rebuild their lives.”

“Those who are relying on income support have been given no certainty that they won’t be back on $40 a day come January, even though the government’s own predictions show unemployment will still be above 8% at the end of this calendar year. This lack of certainty means unemployed Australian parents don’t know how they’ll cover their rent and budget beyond Christmas,” said Ms Lenneberg.

“The Treasurer said in his speech that ‘This is what it means to look after one’s fellow Australian’. But millions of people are not being looked after by this budget. When we look at the most disadvantaged groups, like single mothers and their children, there is nothing in this budget that would make them feel that anyone has their back,” said Ms Lenneberg.

The Parliamentary Budget Office revealed that the share of women JobSeeker (the former Newstart) recipients caring for children skyrocketed from 7.4% in 2007 to 27.3% in 2019. This will only be made worse by the recession. That’s why BSL believes this budget should have addressed the rate of social security payments. The Coronavirus Supplement was a lifeline for millions of people, but since it was slashed at the end of September, millions have been pushed back below the poverty line.

“It is alarming that at a time when 1.6 million Australians are relying on JobSeeker to get by, the government can hand down a budget that doesn’t talk about social security,” says Ms Lenneberg.

BSL is calling for a permanent adequate increase to JobSeeker and the establishment of an independent Social Security Commission to set, monitor and review social security payment rates, much like the one that determines the rate of pay for politicians.

“It’s time to take the politics out of social security,” says Ms Lenneberg. “Making sure this country’s most disadvantaged people can get back on their feet is far too important.”

The Brotherhood of St. Laurence is a social justice organisation working to prevent and alleviate poverty across Australia.

Media inquiries: Bridie Riordan, 0491 159 256, Bridie.Riordan@bsl.org.au

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