The chair of the women’s economic equality task force remains hopeful the Albanese government will find room in the budget to support single parents, despite the government’s refusal to boost JobSeeker payments.
Reinstating the single parenting payment for women with children older than eight was one of the task force’s key recommendations ahead of the May budget.
While the treasurer has not expressly ruled out the return of such a payment, he has talked down calls from a separate committee to “substantially increase” JobSeeker and lift rent assistance to better reflect skyrocketing costs.
The coalescing calls for more support for Australia’s most vulnerable come as the budget faces pressure from all angles, including the growing costs of aged care, defence, the NDIS, health care and the interest bill on debt.
On Wednesday, the government revealed aged care alone was on track to cost almost $5 billion more this year.
Boosting the JobSeeker payment rate to 90 per cent of the age pension would cost $24 billion across the forward estimates, according to the treasurer, and a substantial lift to the payment has been ruled out.
Jim Chalmers said it “wasn’t possible to fund every good idea” but the budget would include measures to address disadvantage such as the energy bill price relief locked in late last year.
Women’s economic equality task force chair Sam Mostyn said she hoped the sole parent payment was still being considered for the budget.
“(The) reinstatement of the sole parent payment is one of the most critical things,” she told ABC Radio.
“I’d rather we didn’t think about these as welfare payments, and think of them as investments in 50 per cent of the population that actually hold up the whole show.”
Independent senator David Pocock, who secured government support for the economic inclusion committee last year in exchange for his vote on the Albanese government’s workplace relations bill, said the government should prioritise communities that needed the most support.
“It appears that this Labor government can find extra money for just about anything – from inland rail cost blowouts to submarines – but it won’t do more to protect the most vulnerable,” he said.
Greens leader Adam Bandt said Labor was forcing people to live in poverty while handing out tax cuts to billionaires and politicians.
“Labor is spending over half a trillion dollars on stage three tax cuts for the wealthy and on nuclear submarines while making the poor foot the bill,” he said.
Opposition finance spokeswoman Jane Hume said increasing JobSeeker by 40 per cent would be “enormously irresponsible”.
“JobSeeker was never supposed to be a wage subsidy. It’s always supposed to be a safety net,” she told Sky News.
“Particularly at a time when what the government should be doing is reining in its spending, because otherwise, you’re going to leave the RBA to do all the heavy lifting to reduce inflation.”
(Australian Associated Press)