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After a paltry increase, Morrison vows to crack down on welfare recipients

By Mark Thompson

While the rate will be raised, the Morrison government has promised to be tougher on those who need welfare in order to survive.

In handing down the Federal Budget, the government offered welfare recipients both the carrot and the stick. In the same breath where they promised an increase to JobSeeker (by $50 a fortnight), the Morrison government announced stricter measures, designed to crack down on those who are “not genuine” about receiving welfare.

It’s worth noting that the minor increase will be applied to the original pre-COVID welfare rate, which gave recipients $40 a day on which to survive. A raised welfare rate has been repeatedly asked for from welfare groups, the opposition, and even former Liberal Party Prime Minister, John Howard, who said that the “freeze had gone on for too long.” The reality of $40 a day is brutal. In 2019, Lisa Carberry spoke to The Guardian about her life on welfare, stating that: “I now have $9.95 to last me for the next two weeks… I have to either not pay a bill or access charities for food and things in order to continue to tread water… that’s really what it is. It’s treading water. It’s not swimming.”

After the increase, recipients will receive $44 a day.

Indeed, as Evin Priest of News.com.au discovered, there are three rental properties in the entire country that those on JobSeeker can actually afford.

Yet, while more and more Australians face the very real possibility of homelessness, the Morrison government has announced that they’re going to be tougher on those who receive welfare. The government says it is “strengthening mutual obligations” allegedly to provide “better support for job seekers in their search for work.”

Per News, “The government will spend $197 million to ‘enable’ job seekers to take part in an ‘intensive activity’ after six months of unemployment, including participating in approved intensive short courses, with some job seekers required to participate in the Work for the Dole program.”

Heinously, they’re going ahead with a ‘dob-in’ line where employers can snitch on those who they feeling aren’t trying hard enough. In February, Greens Senator Rachel Siewert described the move as, “an abuse of power that will hurt the most vulnerable in our community”.

“The job provider system is already rife with bullying (and) harassment of people being ignored or treated very poorly by their job providers and now the government is empowering employers with the means to intimidate and bully job seekers,” she said.

The increase will be applied to the original pre-COVID welfare rate, which gave recipients $40 a day on which to survive. After the increase, they will receive $44 a day.

Social Services Minister Anne Rushton said, “In doing this, we have balanced their incentive to work and making sure we have a sustainable welfare system into the future… not only today but into the future.”

Labour market economist Jeff Borland said there is “no evidence” that the increased coronavirus supplement stopped job seekers looking for work and even a “substantial increase” in unemployment benefits would not provide a disincentive to take a job.

In conversation with the Senate community affairs legislation committee, Borland said that there was “no evidence the higher jobseeker rate in 2020 has had any appreciable effect on incentives to take up paid work.”

As Paul Karp of The Guardian noted, “The evidence, supported by the social policy academic Peter Whiteford, contradicts concerns from Coalition backbench MPs and anecdotal evidence from employers that jobseekers are turning down work.”

In 2019, an article resurfaced that stated that the Morrison government will institute a plan to relocate jobseekers to go and pick fruit. The language of the piece is staggering. “Dole bludgers who refuse to take jobs at farms will have their Centrelink payments slashed as part of a national push to help Aussie farmers prepare for the upcoming harvest season,” Jack Houghton wrote in The West Australian.

Within the article, Morrison said that “Our government has heard from farmers…about how tough it is now to find workers, particularly at the height of harvest season for some crops…we want to highlight exactly where the jobs are and make sure jobseekers know where to be looking. While we’re tackling the labour shortage this also ensures job seekers on taxpayer support have no excuse to refuse opportunities.”

At the time, the fruit farmers excoriated Morrison’s plan. Under the proposal, the unemployed would be shepherded out of their homes and their communities under the threat of having their benefits cut. Whether this plan is dead, or not, is largely irrelevant, as it points to a larger pattern. Clearly, the Coalition loves a deterrent, one formed on the assumption that those who are unemployed are unemployed by choice.

“35% of the Federal Budget,” said Joe Hockey back in 2014, claiming we spent more on welfare than “on any other single policy area including health, education or defence.” It actually turned out to be 19.5%, which made us the 25th out of 30 OCED nations. In a 2018 measure by the same institution, our welfare spending shrank from 23.5% in 2015 to 17.8% of our GDP.

In 2014, the Coalition instituted stricter welfare conditions that saw applicants saddled with a six-month waiting period. At the time, The Guardian revealed that “failure to attend Centrelink appointments and mandatory Jobseeker activities will see prospective welfare recipients punished with a further two-month delay to their payments. This measure will disproportionately punish job seekers in remote areas with limited access to services.”

In February of that year, the ABS noted that there were 140,000 jobs for 700,000 applicants. Despite this, Hockey explained the measures as “an incentive… and if they have to move to get a job, that’s just the way it is.” In the words of the then Federal Minister of Employment Eric Abetz in the same year, the unemployed should just “try harder.”

In May 2020, Scott Morrison uncovered the ‘JobMaker’ plan, with the Prime Minister labelling it a “plan for a new generation of economic success.”

It was later revealed that the program created 609 jobs, well short of the 450,000 it promised.

Oddly, the paltry figure is viewed as a win. As Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy put it, “the program has done its work, frankly.”


This article was originally published on The Big Smoke.

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  1. David Stakes

    We also need to be prepared for a world that is less stable and more contested. This is why we are investing $270 billion over 10 years in our defence capability. While spending up big every year mind boggling number per year

  2. Mrs Wobbly

    The Australian government, needs a pool of underpaid workers for the wealthiest profits margins . Australians unemployed now workers of the new poverty rates are an agenda for this fascist ideology, not classified as humans, disposable as someone else will take what ever work is offered up at poverty rates, when the pool is so large only to survive. It’s inhuman and soul destroying behaviour from this government, these people can’t afford taxpayers funded employees, where is the stick and carrot approach for politicians to be held accountable for genuine policy and real support for the unemployed and job creation, not just the words of propaganda as per the “norm” ?

  3. Andrew J. Smith

    It’s why ‘income support’ has always been a more accurate description of benefits from govt. whether unemployment or pensions; nowadays the recipients of both are presented as competitors.

    This is because, the term ‘welfare’ has become weaponised by radical right libertarians in the US and recipients dog whistled i.e. the poor or wastrels undeserving of support (because it just encourages them aka eugenics philosophy) in promoting older white retirees and pensioners as more deserving, then voting conservative (even if against the interests of their own children or family).

  4. New England Cocky

    it’s time!! AGAIN!!

  5. Kathryn

    By far, the BIGGEST, most deplorable DRAIN ON OUR WELFARE SYSTEM, are the blood-sucking, bone-idle, non-achieving political parasites in the Liberal National Coalition!! Truly, these skirt-lifting misogynists, self-serving totally corrupt sociopaths and lazy, bone-idle non-achieving grubs have not achieved a SINGLE thing to benefit ordinary working- and middle-class Australians since they rose to power like faecal matter in a polluted pond! Morrison is a sneering, smirking pentecostal hypocrite who keeps reminding everyone that he is a christian but goes on and on defunding the lives of so many vulnerable people in our nation, vilifying and attacking anyone on welfare, totally ignoring women’s issues and maintaining a sneering, condescending contempt for Australians that is beyond offensive! Morrison is, in fact, a heartless, callously inhumane parasite who rose to power through his treacherous betrayal of colleagues like Michael Towke and Malcolm Turnbull!

    Morrison goes on and on defunding vital programs, tearing away countless MILLIONS of federal funding from our children’s education, defunding OUR taxpayer-funded ABC into oblivion, defunding Medicare and our hospital systems with a view to turning into the hopelessly FAILED American health system and refusing to even consider increasing the paltry wages of so many working-class Australians whilst HE and the political parasites in the LNP, DOUBLE their salaries to the level where Morrison is now the FIFTH HIGHEST PAID POLITICIAL “LEADER” (and I use that last word with cynicism) IN THE WORLD!

    Clearly, the relentlessly cruel, smirking, bone-idle Morrison (who can’t hold a hose, delegates federal issues – like quarantine and the disbursement of vaccines – to the States, who can’t do ONE SINGLE DAMN THING) chooses to FORGET that it is HE and HIS non-achieving, corrupt and arrogant cabinet (containing only six women) who are, in fact, the MOST PROLIFIC WELFARE CHEATS IN THE COUNTRY, rorting every cent they can from the bleeding wound of the taxpayer purse! Who the hell votes for these monstrous aberrations in the worst, most corrupt and malevolent government in history?

  6. Harry Lime

    Got me fucked why anybody would believe anything Morrison’s slimeball of a government says.Have any grandiose announcements ever been followed through?Meanwhile, the manufacturers of sandwich boards and begging cups have seen a surge in demand…could be an opening there for community men’s sheds.Regarding welfare recipients,Morrison once again fails the empathy test,and with higher education, the last thing Fauxmo needs is people learning how to think.

  7. Anke

    Arrr yes Yea Olde Persucute the Serfs and squeeze them for their blood and blame them for the economic woes. Pit the workers against those that have nothing! Its a great way to divert attention away from the monumental mismanagement of Federal Funding and or distribution of OUR monies!
    I can speak from a lowly place on the Socio Economic rung on the Wealth Ladder.
    I work 10 hours a week and get supplemented with Department of inHumane Service fortnitely payments, I live in rural Tasmania and yes its smack bang in potato, onion, beef and dairy country! Farm work is seasonal and backpackers get first preference. I worked for 8 hours planting hops, before my other job started in the evening, cripes it was back and knee breaking work for sure. But there was only another 3 days of that. Yes I worked in a dairy for a few shifts, I wanted to give it a good go and did it for free hoping to get a shift, guess what, $ milk wars saw dairy hands who were employed last were layed off. I had no chance. So four years later Im still at the same 10 hr per week hospitality position and not letting go. Im 62 and expected to work for another 5 years…hahaha…ya want fries with that?
    Those fat cats up in Canberra are so removed from reality of everyday people, shuffling extraordinary piles of money around and LOSING it! Take into consideration Frytheburger’s monumental $30bill * left over* from emergency Covid Funding…where is it now, the French Submarine Contract Court Case, why are we paying for it and how come it’s secret? Gee keeping the scary Sri Lankan 4 locked up for the last 3 years…$millions…good grief I need another screen to list the SQUILLIONS wasted.
    What are australians doing about it…bloody nothing…shouting outrage at THE DOLE BLUDGERS…..

  8. Florence

    One of Frydenberg’s proudest claim is he cut the welfare bill. Even Menzies said pensions were an entitlement, not welfare. We pay all our working lives to expect social security if needed.

  9. Chasadel

    Job providers are a complete waste of time and money – I speak from experience. Denigrating the unemployed/under-employed is criminal. Beats me why the voting morons insist on voting these idiots into office. No doubt they haven’t bothered to find out that the recent budget only benefits those whose household budget amounts to $160k+ pa, with further gifts promised for those wealthy people. Can’t they see they are being taken for a ride by this lying cabal of miscreants?

  10. Caz

    Can someone please tell Morrison that Christians are also unemployed. anyone on Welfare ( how I hate that word) should not be assumed godless, lazy or unskilled. Most people had a go,and then had another go, and another, ad nauseam. Obviously these Christians are not pulling their weight or haven’t received the Pentecostal message.

  11. New England Cocky

    Oh dear ….. why is corporate welfare excluded form this discussion?? You know, all those ”gifts” to corporate, some unsolicited, the tax rebates, the undermining of the tax scales so that the corporations pay nothing??

    There are two sides to a balance sheet and our comments are ignoring government mis-spending and straight out graft when soluitons are proposed for us Australian citizens.

  12. wam

    It is tragic that 0.015% of the projected jobs is counted as a positive but with so little access to media for labor items have to be prioritised?
    The unemployed xstians, can, are likely to be labor voters so are not to be included in any calculations.
    1949-1972 it is nowhere near time again. #$&56)(*&% feels like it.

  13. DrakeN

    Lie, damned lies and LNP government ministers who never ever read the statistics – or deny them if they are brought to attention.
    Q&A last night had one of their expert fact avoiders and manipulators taking up an unfair portion of the air-time.
    Senator Jane Hume.

  14. Zathras

    Who can forget Hockey’s advice on the growing problem of housing affordability?
    “Just get a good job that pays well”. Brilliant!
    It’s just another example of how out-of-touch these people really are.

    The “undeserving poor” are now even worse off because we’re being led by an adherent to the Prosperity Gospel. The poor get what they deserve. Dollars are blessings, pollies and employers are priests, banks are churches and money is god.

  15. Max Gross

    The so-called “covid supplement’ that temporarily doubled the unemployment benefit and briefly lifted people out of poverty proved that the government can spend as much as it wants on whatever it wants. Withdrawing that support and throwing people back into poverty is a policy choice, not an economic one. LNP ideology harms people. LNP ideology kills people!

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