In a submission to the Australian Government, Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen, Chair of the Bishops Commission for Social Justice, Mission and Service has called for a substantial and permanent increase to the JobSeeker allowance. Rejecting the proposed increase to JobSeeker as inadequate, he said “it is imperative that the Federal Government provide income support sufficient for a dignified life. This is a basic demand of human dignity and the common good.”
Speaking for the Commission, he noted that the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Strengthening Income Support) Bill 2021 will have the effect of raising the Jobseeker and Youth Allowances by only $50 a fortnight compared with the pre-COVID-19 rates. Bishop Long said that the Commission “shared the deep disappointment of Catholic agencies in the social services sector at this short-sighted proposal. The new rate would be less than half of the minimum wage and clearly inadequate to meet basic needs of vulnerable people”.
Furthermore, the Commision agreed with the judgement of Catholic Social Services Australia CEO Dr Ursula Stephens, that this meagre increase will “do nothing to lift Australians out of poverty and will perpetuate long-term disadvantage”.
Bishop Long said that the “coronavirus supplement went a long way towards meeting the Government’s responsibility as a state party to the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of “the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions” (article 11).
“Beyond the direct impact of the higher rate of the JobSeeker payment at the height of the pandemic in Australia on those who were in receipt of the payment, the stimulus provided to the economy at large has also helped to keep others in employment” he continued.
“Maintaining this rate would allow individuals, families and households to better meet their basic living expenses and to seek employment. It would be a mechanism by which the whole community might more effectively share the burdens of the impact of the pandemic together” he concluded.
Submissions to the Australian Government on the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Strengthening Income Support) Bill 2021, including Bishop Vincent’s (submission number 195) and that of Catholic Social Services Australia (submission number 214) can be accessed here.