Jobseekers will get a $550 boost to their fortnightly welfare payments for six months in one of the largest increases to social security benefits in Australia’s history, as the government seeks to shield the unemployed ahead of a looming recession, The Guardian reports.
In a press conference at Parliament House on Sunday, the prime minister, Scott Morrison, said the changes, which effectively double the rate of Jobseeker Payment, reflected a desire to cushion those “who will be feeling the first blows of the economic impact from the coronavirus”.
“We will be supercharging the safety net,” Morrison said. “We will be supporting the most vulnerable to the impacts of the crisis.”
The decision dramatically reverses the Coalition’s fierce, long-held opposition to an increase in the Newstart payment, which put it at odds with former prime minister John Howard and the business community.
Instead, the Morrison government has instituted what one welfare expert called the largest-ever boost to benefits in Australia, committing to spend $14bn over six months on what it is calling a temporary “coronavirus supplement”.
The mammoth but “time limited” increase to unemployment benefits far exceeds the most recent call from welfare groups for a permanent, $95- a-week boost to the dole, worth $4bn a year.
Under sweeping changes to the welfare system, the government will also expand access to unemployment benefits by waiving the liquid assets waiting test, which will allow people to access income support without whittling down their savings. Prospective welfare recipients will no longer need to attend a Centrelink office to complete their claim, and the application process will be streamlined.
From 27 April, jobseekers will be eligible for a maximum base rate of $1115.70 a fortnight, excluding rent assistant and family payments, compared with a current base rate of $565.70.