Seniors groups are urging the Morrison government to consider boosting the dole payments for mature-age workers to reflect the fact many over-55s have little chance of ever securing another job.
The “grey pay” plan to boost the $555-a-fortnight allowance was backed on Monday night by former Nationals Senator John ‘Wacka’ Williams, who said the dole should be paid on a sliding scale.
Mr Williams told The New Daily older unemployed workers deserved a better deal as the age of qualification for the pension increased to 66.
“As you get older, it’s harder to get another job,” Mr Williams said.
“It might be that you pay over-55s $320 a week and pay younger workers less. The taxpayers of this country don’t owe you a living. But by stepping it, you’re also helping the budget.”
But welfare groups cautioned that rent, food and utilities cost low-income people the same whether they are young or old.
Over-55s are now the largest single age cohort on Newstart, with mature-age workers now comprising the majority of the unemployed.
They are also more likely to stay on Newstart longer.
Seniors Australia chief advocate Ian Henschke said the framework to offer a more generous payment to seniors was already in place.
But he said it was ridiculous an unemployed person aged 65 is expected to live on $15,000 a year on Newstart and is then paid $24,000 a year in the aged pension as soon as they turn 66.
Skipping meals to survive and living on porridge and tinned meals. This is life on Newstart – it’s tougher than $211,000 a year. https://t.co/3xXJVO25qd
— 𝕤𝕒𝕞𝕒𝕟𝕥𝕙𝕒 𝕞𝕒𝕚𝕕𝕖𝕟 (@samanthamaiden) July 28, 2019
Over-60s already secure $600 a fortnight instead of $555 if they are on the dole for more than nine months.
“It’s a tacit admission it’s tougher for older workers to find another job,” Mr Henschke said.
“We are seeing seniors spend almost four years on Newstart and we are talking about hundreds of thousands of Australians chewing up their savings before they qualify for the aged pension.”
There are also different rules for Work for the Dole.
If you are aged 50 to 59 years you need to complete 15 hours per week of an approved activity for six months each year under Work for the Dole rules, but it can now include volunteering.
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) July 29, 2019
Meanwhile, the Labor Party has called for the controversial Robodebt scheme to be scrapped.
Former Labor leader Bill Shorten announced the new policy on Monday night in his role as human services spokesperson.
“Revelations from a mourning mother that her disability pensioner son continued to be hounded over an alleged debt even after his death should shame Government Services Minister Stuart Robert to finally act and address the problems at the heart of this scheme,” Mr Shorten said.
“We recognise the right of the government to recoup legitimate debts that are owed. But Robodebt is not that, it is a mess.”
Mr Shorten said the computerised calculation was inaccurate and unfair and has led to more than 100,000 claims being changed when challenged.
“Every day brings another Robodebt horror story,” he said.