A major decision was made in parliament on Sunday, as a newly passed bill signalled a legislative overhaul and an annual independent review for welfare payments.
That means that Jobseeker payments will be assessed before each federal budget to see if they are adequately supporting Australians looking for work.
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Following late-night negotiations on Saturday, Senator David Pocock agreed to back Labor’s industrial relations laws.
Under agreed changes to the legislation, the government will set up an independent body to review social support payments before every federal budget.
Pushed through during the last week of sitting parliament, Pocock said the bill was rushed but the changes were a good step forward.
Greens employment spokeswoman Barbara Pocock said the government needed to take action on lifting welfare payments.
“We don’t need committees, we need to make sure it actually happens,” she said.
Albanese said having an independent committee to examine social payments would be a vital process, but the government made it clear it would not be held to the recommendations of the committee.
A total of $33 billion was directed towards welfare payments in the federal budget, and a third of that went to JobSeeker – with inflation largely responsible for growing welfare costs.
So, how much are Jobseeker payments currently, who is eligible, and how likely is an increase? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is JobSeeker?
Centrelink’s JobSeeker payment offers financial help for Australians looking for work.
It replaced the Newstart Allowance back in March 2020, and varies depending on your individual situation by taking your living arrangements into account.
It’s a taxable income, and can also impact the amount of child support you receive.
JobSeeker payment amount
The JobSeeker payment currently ranges from a maximum fortnightly payment of $668.40 for single recipients without children, to $915.40 for parents are carers with additional mutual obligation requirements.
In addition to your individual circumstances, the payment also changes depending on how much you and your partner have been paid in the past 14 days.
Rates are updated biannually, on 20 March and 20 September.
To be eligible for JobSeeker payments recipients must be between the age of 22 and the pension age – 66 years and six months.
Recipients must also be Australian residents living in Australia. If you’re a newly arrived resident you will need to adhere to the payment waiting period, which can be up to four years without any travel outside of the country.
To be eligible for the payment, recipients will also need to be unemployed and looking for work, or sick or injured and temporarily unable to do their usual work or study.
You may also be eligible if you’ve been temporarily stood down or had your work hours reduced.
JobSeeker income test
Centrelink will review your fortnightly income when calculating your JobSeeker payment, and if you’re in a relationship it will review theirs too.
Your payment will generally be reduced by 60 cents for each dollar of income your partner earns over $1,196 per fortnight.
If you don’t report your income, Centrelink will consider any additional funds allocated as an overpayment and you could end up with a debt.
If you’re single and not a principle carer, earning below $150 per fortnight your payment will not change your payments. Earn any higher than that and your payment will be reduced by 50 cents for each dollar earned between $150 and $256, and 60 cents for each dollar earned over $256.
The same applies for recipients with a partner who is not receiving a Centrelink payment pension.
If your partner is receiving a pension payment, the same reductions apply but are based on half of your combined income per fortnight, rather than on full, individual fortnightly payments.
If you’re a single principal carer your payment will be deducted of 40 cents for each dollar over $150.
Jobseeker asset test
The combined worth of an applicant’s assets are considered when assessing their eligibility, and if that rises to exceed certain limits the recipient’s payment will be cut off.
Assets for an eligible single JobSeeker recipient can not exceed $280,000 for homeowners, or $504,500 for non-homeowners.
For eligible recipients in a couple, combined assets can not exceed $419,000 for homeowners, or $643,500 for non-homeowners.
How likely is it JobSeeker will rise?
Under the Albanese government, Australia’s budget will for the first time start tracking its citizens’ quality of life and wellbeing, showing a willingness to consider recommendations made by the annual payment review.
However, the government has made it clear that it will not be bound by the recommendations.
Calls for an increase to JobSeeker payments were already knocked back ahead of the October budget, as peak welfare group The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) pushed for the payment rate to be lifted to $70 a day.
The ACOSS was backed by Pocock and the Greens, which proposed raising the payment rate even higher to $88 a day.
The biannual indexation led to an increase of $1.80 on 20 September, lifting the daily rate from $46 to $48. This leaves it well below the poverty line and 42 per cent of the minimum wage. ACOSS said the increase ”won’t even cover the cost of a loaf of bread”.
Prior to his election, Albanese said “no one” could live on $40 a day, but whether the payment will be increased under his leadership is yet to be known.
– With AAP
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