Jobseeker payment may not return to pre-pandemic level, MP Tony Pasin suggests

The Liberal MP is urging people on benefits not to be anxious about the future.

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Unemployment payments may not necessarily go back to their pre-pandemic level of $40 per day, federal MP Tony Pasin says.

The Member for Barker, pictured, has sought to calm anxious Jobseeker recipients after Murray Bridge News found $750,000 per fortnight would leave the local economy when payments were reduced this week.

At this stage, the federal government plans reduce payments again in December by taking away a $250-a-fortnight “coronavirus supplement”.

But Mr Pasin suggested that plan was not yet set in stone.

“We’ll reassess the situation closer to the end of the year, around the beginning of December ... when we have a clearer picture of the situation we find ourselves in,” he said.

“We need to make that decision with the best available information.

“(Prime Minister Scott Morrison) has provided historically high supports to people, and if it continues to be warranted, I’m sure it will be addressed favourably.”

If not for the government’s intervention, he said, Australia would have suffered an economic downturn “which would have been broader, deeper and lasted longer than the Great Depression”.

But he argued that the Jobseeker payment was currently too generous, and that meat processors and other local employers were struggling to find workers as a result.

If jobs went un-filled and companies could not operate efficiently, existing jobs could come under threat, he warned.

“The rate needs to be set at a level that supports people as a safety net but doesn't disincentivise people from seeking employment,” he said.

“If the rate is too high, I’m worried people will treat (Jobseeker) as a hammock, not a safety net.”

He described Labor’s campaign for a permanent increase to the rate of Jobkeeper as a “cheap political stunt”.

“The pandemic is being used as an excuse to drive this campaign to raise the rate,” he said.

“I’m disappointed.”

Higher rate would create hundreds of jobs in Murray Bridge, ACOSS says

The Australian Council of Social Service, which represents the nation’s community service organisations, is among those which have campaigned for a Jobseeker increase.

Thirty-two per cent fewer Australians were living in poverty even during the current economic recession, ACOSS said, as a result of Jobkeeper and the coronavirus supplement.

Keeping those temporary measures in place would create the equivalent of 370 full-time jobs in the Murray Bridge district in 2020-21, it estimated, and increase consumption by $54 million.

“Delivering a permanent and adequate increase to the Jobseeker payment is one of the most effective ways to inject dollars into regional communities,” chief executive officer Cassandra Goldie said.

“The doubling of Newstart (now Jobseeker) at the start of the pandemic came as a huge relief – after 26 years without a real increase to Newstart, people without paid work were finally able to afford the basics.

“They now face a deeply uncertain future.”

The chief executive of the SA Council of Social Service, Ross Womersley, spoke about the Jobseeker issue at a forum in Murray Bridge last month, alongside local financial counsellor Janet Emmins.

Photo: Tony Pasin MP/Facebook.

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