Treasurer Jim Chalmers has defended increasing Jobseeker payments solely for Australians over 55 – despite criticism and concern from young people.
Next week’s budget is set to confirm the fortnightly Jobseeker payment will be increased for 227,000 older recipients – however, the amount is yet to be determined – while those on the payments aged under 55 are likely not to receive any increase.
Last month, a government-commissioned review panel recommended a “substantial” increase to the “seriously inadequate” payment.
Refusing to be drawn on what he called “speculation” ahead of next Tuesday’s budget, Dr Chalmers said being selective with Jobseeker increases would mean the most vulnerable Australians more likely to struggle to find employment would have additional support.
Jobseeker recipients over 55 are expected to get a payment boost in next week’s budget with younger Aussies to miss out. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Geraghty
“The Jobseeker payment already makes a distinction between workers closer to the aged pension – older workers. It already pays a different rate at the moment for people over 60, and that’s in recognition that it is harder to find a new job at the end of your working life,”
he told ABC Radio.
“Second point is related. All of the expert advice says that the group most likely to be long-term unemployed is people over 55, and that group is dominated by women. That is the most vulnerable part of the unemployed population.
“The third one is that no government can satisfy all of the calls for more spending in the budget, even from people and from groups whose views we welcome and respect. It’s not possible to satisfy all of the calls … particularly at a time when we’ve got persistently high inflation and structural deficits.”
He said the age of 55 was the recommendation of the Women’s Economic Equality taskforce and the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee.
Dr Chalmers said the government had included a comprehensive cost of living package in the budget, including measures that are “not determined by age”.
“The overwhelming priority for the government is to provide this substantial cost of living relief in a way that prioritises the most vulnerable,” he said.
There is likely to be reconsideration of a broader payment raise in subsequent budgets.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers has defended the ‘speculated’ decision. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dylan Coker
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said Dr Chalmers had to balance the “juggling act” of inflation still not in control.
“Anything the government does to increase inflation will mean that interest rates will remain higher for longer,” he told 2GB.
“It’ll mean that families will continue to struggle. And we know that a lot of families at the moment just don’t know how they’re going to pay the bills – so that’s what the government has to weigh up.”
Mr Dutton said he was concerned that there were people on the Jobseeker payment who weren’t “legitimately looking for work” and there was a “great argument” for bringing back the work for the dole program.
“A program like work for the dole provides an incentive for people to move off the dole into work, which is a better life for them,” he said.
Read related topics:Peter Dutton