The 5.5million Australians on income support through Centrelink could soon see a bump in their payments as a new review body is established.
Independent senator David Pocock has agreed to support the Labor government’s industrial relations bill on the condition a formal process is established to ensure welfare payments aren’t falling short.
Pocock described the new process – which will see the expert advice made publicly available before each federal budget – as a ‘game changer for people living below the poverty line’.
‘This will look at how the most vulnerable in our community are faring and what needs to change to ensure we don’t leave them behind,’ he said on Sunday.
Australians who are on Centrelink payments will soon have the adequacy of their payments reviewed yearly by a new independent committee (file image)
Pocock said he’d already been working behind the scenes in an effort to push Treasurer Jim Chalmers and other ministers to examine Jobseeker payment amounts as the cost of living continues to soar in Australia.
Prices rose a whopping 7.3 per cent on average in the past year to December.
‘It makes no sense to me for one of the wealthiest countries in the world to have one in six children growing up in poverty.’
‘That’s not good for all of our collective (community and) I’ll continue to push them.’
‘Having this independent committee, I think, will raise awareness about the state of social security payments in Australia and hopefully will really push the government to address it.’
Asked if the committee would recommend the Jobseeker amount is currently too low and needs to be raised, Pocock said that was ‘his hope’.
‘They’ll publish their recommendations at least two weeks before the budget.’
‘So, there’ll be a level of transparency there and then government will have to make the case of why they are or aren’t taking those recommendations on board.’
How much fortnightly payments will rise would depend on the advice.
The increase likely wouldn’t be as big as the last rise, announced in September by the newly voted in Labor government, in which Jobseeker rose by $25.70, age pensions by $20, and single parent payments by $35.20.
David Pocock and Emma Pocock (pictured) arrive at the GQ Men of The Year Awards 2019
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said there was more he would ‘like to do’ but wouldn’t be drawn into declaring payments would rise when asked about the committee on Sunday.
‘Government will continue to make decisions… based upon the best possible advice… There are a range of sources and this will be an additional one.’
‘We do have to make sure that any action of the government bears in mind inflation and the economic circumstances which are there.’
‘This committee I think will add to the amount of information and the quality of the information which is out there.’
‘I would always want to do more for people who are disadvantaged – that’s the Labor way.’
But he also added the government needed to be ‘responsible’ which included at this stage returning 99 per cent of revenue growth to the budget in and effort to get it heading back towards a surplus.
LABOR’S IR BILL EXPLAINED
The wide-reaching bill includes stopping employers from banning staff from discussing their wages, and beefs up the Fair Work Commission’s powers to close the gender pay gap.
Workers will be able to demand flexible hours and more easily sue ex-employers to recover lost wages and entitlements.
Rolling short-term contracts that effectively keep workers on endless probation will be banned, outdated agreements from the WorkChoices era ended, and red tape cut from the better off overall test.
But the most controversial part of the legislation that was bitterly opposed by business lobby groups was the revival of multi-employer bargaining.
This made it easier to set up agreements that covered more than one company – and theoretically entire industries – instead of each business having its own.
Unions could drag businesses in to these agreements if they met certain conditions, and workers voted in favour.