3 May 2023

Ross Gittins on Labor’s gutless decision to raise financial assistance for a small cohort of deserving poor, while locking the rest in abject poverty: “[T]o any person with a shred of conscience, any belief in decent treatment of the less-fortunate, any care about maintaining Australia’s pride in being the land of the fair go, one issue towers above all others: our shameful treatment of the unemployed. For years, we’ve gone on allowing the unemployment benefit — these days called the JobSeeker payment — to fall further and further below what the rest of us get, and further below the poverty line. … It’s easy to exaggerate the cost of raising the dole. As former Treasury secretary Dr Ken Henry points out, the annual cost of the committee’s proposal is $6 billion, less than 1 per cent of total government spending. ‘No more than an adjustment at the margin,’ he says. Among rich countries, we have the third-lowest unemployment benefits. If, as usual, you set the poverty line at half the median disposable income, the single JobSeeker payment has fallen from 14 per cent below the poverty line in 2000 to 68 per cent below in 2022. Is that a record we’re happy to live with? Is Anthony Albanese, who’s always telling us how hard he and his pensioner mother did it, willing to let the jobless continue to suffer because there are no votes in doing the right thing? Is that all modern Labor stands for?”

Meanwhile, Labor is still committed to huge tax cuts for the richest Australians. As Greg Jericho argues, “The stage-three tax cuts were always the worst economic policy, but the ALP has also turned them into the dumbest political strategy.”