On the day where the Morrison government’s announced cuts to the JobKeeper and JobSeeker subsidies take effect, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) have taken another opportunity to push its jobs-based plan for economic recovery – with the reading of the federal budget now just ten days away.
Michele O’Neil, the president of the ACTU, points out that from early May when the first JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments went out to its recipients until Friday, when the cuts took place, it allowed an all-too-brief glimpse of relief out of poverty for more than a million people on JobSeeker alone.
In essence, those on JobSeeker will lose more than half of their supplement added to the old NewStart allowance, roughly $300 per fortnight to $250 received per fortnight, while approximately 3.5 million JobKeeper recipients will be losing either $300 per fortnight or up to $750 per fortnight, depending on whether any given employee meets the threshold of working 80 hours per fortnight.
Therefore, while those on JobKeeper will still receive $1200 per fortnight at Tier 1 and up to $750 per fortnight at Tier 2, each before tax, JobSeeker recipients have had their payments cut from approximately $1130 per fortnight to $830 per fortnight, tax-free.
Whereas JobSeeker recipients had become accustomed to receiving an average of $80 per day with the full supplementary payments, twice the amount of the old NewStart allowance alone, they are now having to get by on an average of $58 per day.
“This crisis has shown how much a small increase in JobSeeker payments can improve quality of life for working people and their families, but the Morrison Government seems determined that its legacy should be poverty for those who have lost their jobs during the greatest economic downturn in a century,” said Michele O’Neil, the ACTU’s president.
And while hope is currently leading to another round of gloom and despair, the projected statistical impact of JobSeeker cuts may equate to the worst being yet to come.
And with JobSeeker set for another rollback to its original NewStart allowance values as of December 31, pending further negotiations and changes in the government’s policies, the losses could mount even higher.
While unemployment figures cited by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) dropping by 0.7 per cent in the month of August, from 7.5 to 6.8 per cent, the under-employment rate – defined as those casual and part-time workers employed for 20 hours per week or less – remained at 11.2 per cent.
Despite apparent gains on the unemployment front, according to deputy opposition leader Richard Marles, the ALP member for Corio in Geelong’s northern suburbs, finding a job is more challenging than ever for the unemployed and under-employed.
“In Australia right now, there are 13 people unemployed for every job that is available,” Marles told the Today show last week.
“In regional Australia – and here in Geelong – that’s much worse, it is 23 people to every job that’s available,” Marles added.
The ACTU has advocated for the Morrison government to adopt its jobs-based plan to stimulate economic growth out of the double-whammy of the COVID-19 pandemic and a once-in-a-generation recession on multiple occasions, and while the government has steadfastly refused to take the ACTU up on its generous offer, perhaps there is no time like the present to swallow its pride on behalf of a whole nation.
In July, the ACTU released its blueprint for that, entitled the National Economic Reconstruction Plan (NERP), which focused on five key areas:
- Early Childhood Education
- Training For Reconstruction
- Rediscover Australia
- National Reconstruction Investment Plan
- and a Sustainable Marketing Strategy
Recently, the ACTU’s push for its NERP plan has been justified even further due to the influx of new statistics and developments.
Tourism, an industry covered under the “Rediscover Australia” element, has taken a major hit so far during the pandemic, given the locking-down of state borders and the lack of international tourists that have been able to fly into Australia since the pandemic was called by the Morrison government in March.
The ABS revealed on Friday that for the financial year ending last June, employment within the tourism industry fell by a whopping 15.1 per cent, and the retail sector of the hospitality industry – defined in the report to single out cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services – suffered a loss of just over 34,000 jobs while the accommodation sector decreased by 24,000 jobs.
“However, all areas of tourism have been impacted,” said Jonathan Khoo, the ABS’s director of tourism statistics, emphasising that the total fall of tourism jobs exists as the lowest on record.
“Given the challenges that tourism continues to face, we expect future releases of this data will show further impacts of COVID-19 on tourism activity,” added Khoo.
Additionally, the ACTU also advocates for the reinvestment in training institutes, such as with the TAFE system which had been gutted with budget cuts dating back to Tony Abbott’s government, as a staple of its NERP blueprint.
“To lift the country out of recession, we need to create secure jobs and make sure there are pathways for local workers into those jobs,” said Scott Connolly, the ACTU’s assistant secretary.
Moreover, O’Neil cites that the Morrison government has its priorities misplaced, cutting subsidies for people who need it most rather than focusing on a jobs-based plan that can bolster the economy.
“Despite not having a plan for how to get people back into jobs, the Morrison Government is now cutting support for the people in our community who have been hit hardest by this pandemic,” said O’Neil.
Also by William Olson:
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