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On Raising The JobSeeker Rate

Speech given in the Senate on 6 September 2022.

Indexation increases to a range of payments were announced yesterday, including JobSeeker. Recipients will get an extra $1.80 a day from 20 September—an extra half a coffee if they're lucky. This lifts the daily rate from $46 to $48. Expecting people to live on $48 a day is expecting people to live in poverty. The price of food alone is soaring, with estimates suggesting it could be costing lower income households as much as 40 per cent of their take-home wage to buy a week's worth of food.

This comes at a time where the costs of rent are driving people to homelessness. We're having to talk about the working homeless here in Australia. In the last 12 months the average rent on a unit in Canberra increased by 11 per cent. It is the most expensive city to rent in in our country. Nationally, there are 164,000 people on the social housing wait list—164,000. It is not an exaggeration to call this a housing crisis.

We are in a cost-of-living crisis, too. In the pandemic, the COVID supplement increased the rate of JobSeeker and we understand now that it lifted people out of poverty. During that time, people reported improved mental health outcomes. It allowed people to eat better and keep a roof over their heads. The research now shows that four-fifths of people who were on JobSeeker were able to live above the poverty line.

Everyone deserves of a safe, warm place to live. Everyone deserves to eat fresh and healthy food. I hope the government will urgently consider raising the rate to at least $70 a day to help get people out of poverty. Thank you.