Dear Prime Minister,
As the pandemic across the country worsens, it’s essential that financial support is extended to any person in Australia who needs it.
In my electorate of South Brisbane, I have been hearing from constituents who are out of work due to isolation requirements or illness, small businesses having to close their doors, people struggling to find work, and families unable to cover costs for essentials like food. In a wealthy country like Australia, where billionaires have doubled their wealth, and big corporations, banks and mining companies have made massive profits over the course of the pandemic, there is no reason why people should be struggling to buy food, or pay rent.
During 2020 and 2021, Australians were offered basic support in the form of a suspension to mutual obligations, the addition of the Coronavirus Supplement, and an eviction moratorium. As the pandemic peaks in Australia, I’m urging both the Federal and State governments to be urgently mobilising to ensure the wellbeing and dignity of all Australians.
A permanent increase to JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and the Disability Support Pension
The Government needs to immediately reinstate the Coronavirus Supplement, and permanently increase the rates of JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and the Disability Support Pension.
There are currently around 902,000 people on the JobSeeker allowance across Australia - nearly 1 in every 25 Australians - and as the pandemic worsens, this number will only grow. These people are surviving below the poverty line - in a wealthy country like Australia, this is unacceptable.
Surviving on $44 per day is degrading and inhumane under the best of conditions. But during a pandemic, when people are sick or isolating, this is even worse. Currently, many people are facing additional costs, such as: cost of RATs tests; cost of masks; paying for grocery deliveries when isolating; cost of basic medicines if sick at home; cost of transport when avoiding public transport; or supporting family members who are unwell or can’t work.
In 2020, the addition of the Coronavirus Supplement allowed many people, for the first time in years, to live with basic dignity – affording food, medical appointments, or other basic home essentials. It’s urgent and imperative that the government immediately reinstate the Coronavirus Supplement, and permanently raise the rate of JobSeeker to at least $80 per day.
Expanding eligibility criteria for JobSeeker
Welfare payments should be more readily available to anyone who needs it. At the very lease the government should reinstate these changes to eligibility that were in place in 2020, including:
- Waiving the assets test
- Waiving the ordinary waiting period, liquid assets waiting period, newly arrived residents waiting period and the seasonal workers preclusion period
- Lowering the amount payment rates are reduced by as a result of partner income
- Waiving the need for Employment Separation Certificates, proof of rental arrangements or the verification of a person’s relationship status
Reinstate a nation-wide eviction moratorium
The Government needs to introduce a nation-wide eviction moratorium. As more and more people get sick and have to be isolated, either as a close contact, or a COVID19 patient, the stress on household budgets will only increase. Casual workers in particular will be hard hit. For many households, this will be putting immense strain on their capacity to pay the bills, and pay their rent.
We need a nationwide eviction moratorium as the states go through the worst peaks of the pandemic, to ensure that no person is left homeless, or forced to move, as cases skyrocket.
In addition to this, we need urgent reform to support renters across the country, with measures such as: caps on rent increases; banning no ground evictions, including banning end-of-lease as grounds for evictions; allowing minor modifications; minimum standards that include ventilation and energy efficiency.
Suspend mutual obligations
I join calls to immediately suspend mutual obligations. Mutual obligations are degrading, ineffective and harmful. Many parts of the country are effectively in lockdown, as more and more people are required to self isolate. Particularly in the height of the pandemic, face-to-face mutual obligations put people at greater risk of catching COVID or infecting others.
Support and safe workplaces for healthcare workers and other essential workers
Essential and frontline workers have been shouldering enormous risk during the pandemic. In Queensland, essential workers who are deemed to be ‘close contacts’ of someone with COVID-19, and are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, are exempt from usual isolation requirements, and must go to work. The sectors included:
- Emergency services
- Power and utilities
- Stores in remote locations or communities
- Essential retail (including supermarkets)
- Freight and Logistics
- Public Transport
- Education (secondary, primary and kindergarten school teachers)
- Agriculture and Fisheries production
- Major manufacturing, distribution and critical supply chains.
Essential workers should be entitled to a pandemic bonus for the duration of the pandemic. This will not only help to retain skilled workers in these sectors, but recognises the immense risk that they are carrying for the rest of us.
An essential worker bonus scheme could be modeled off the ‘Aged Care Workforce Retention Bonus’ that was offered by the Federal government in 2020. The Victorian Government is also offering a ‘Hospital Surge Support Allowance’ for healthcare workers, which offers allowances of between $15 and $60 per shift for workers in eligible working environments.
In addition, these workers need assurances that their workplaces are safe, with access to PPE, free RAT tests and ventilation in workplaces. The government should be working closely with these sectors, to ensure these measures are in place in these workplaces.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office on 3724 9100 if you would like to discuss this matter in more detail.
Member for South Brisbane