The federal treasurer has refused to confirm whether JobSeeker payments for people over 55 will be lifted for the first time in a decade.
- JobSeeker payments will reportedly be increased for people over 55
- The federal treasurer will not confirm the reports, but says there will be targeted support in the budget
- The federal government has been under pressure to lift the JobSeeker rate, including from those in its backbench
Channel Seven has reported the lift will be included in next week’s federal budget but younger people will miss out.
Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers said unemployed women over 55 were the most vulnerable cohort in Australian society and the government wanted to introduce specific measures to help them.
But he did not rule out the change, saying instead those details would be confirmed next week.
“Without pre-empting what may or may not be in the budget … the JobSeeker payment already makes a distinction for people closer to the aged payment,” Mr Chalmers said.
“That’s in recognition that it is harder to find a new job at the end of your working life.
“The group that is most likely to be long-term unemployed are people over 55, [and] that group is dominated by women.
“No government can satisfy all of the calls for more spending in the budget, even from people and groups whose views we respect.”
Mr Chalmers said there would be “responsible” cost of living relief in the budget, with the measures focused on the most vulnerable people, but not all of them would be age limited.
Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton refused to weigh in on weather the the JobSeeker welfare payment should be increased.
Instead, he said the government should prioritise lifting workforce participation.
“We will wait for the budget next week we need we need to make sure we increase participation in our country, not decrease it,” he said.
“So we want incentives there for people to work if they have the capacity to work.”
The Antipoverty Centre warned if the reports were true, limiting the lift to people over 55 would leave behind more than 680,000 people on JobSeeker.
“Rent is not cheaper for people under 55. Groceries are not cheaper for people under 55. Electricity, phone bill, fuel, clothes — none of the essentials cost us less based on age,” the group said in a statement.
“Rather than caring for everyone who needs support, politicians have cynically calculated that helping those over 55 will win them more votes.”
The federal government has faced intense pressure from within its own ranks to lift the rate of JobSeeker, which has not received a permanent increase above regular indexation in years.
A review of JobSeeker and other government payments commissioned by Mr Chalmers deemed the rate insufficient and recommended that it be raised as a first priority.
That review recommended a lift to about 90 per cent of the Age Pension, which would amount to about $875 a fortnight.