More than 20 leaders of Hunter-based religious, welfare and environment organisations have joined a campaign calling for a permanent increase to JobSeeker and related payments.
The heads of the Catholic, Anglican and Uniting churches, CatholicCare, Community Disability Alliance Hunter, Samaritans, The Wilderness Society Newcastle, Hunter Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service, Newcastle Climate Change Response are among those who have signed letters to the Prime Minister, Treasurer, the Minister for families and social services.
"There is a saying that a crisis does not change a society, it reveals it. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed much about Australia as a society," the letter to Scott Morrison says.
"Australians have now seen that government payments and benefits prior to the crisis were inadequate for a life lived with self-esteem, contribution and hope. This has been true for many years but a rising jobless rate means millions of Australians now have first-hand experience of life on JobSeeker or JobKeeper."
Hunter Community Alliance organiser Callan Lawrence said it was the first time such a broad group of Hunter organisations had collaborated on an advocacy campaign.
The letters were accompanied by testimonies from local people affected by the payments.
The campaign follows calls from Hunter MPs to increase the Jobseeker rate.
The alliance argues that all government payments and benefits should not amount to less than $500 per week and that this payment should be indexed to wages.
The Australian Council of Social Services' has advocated for the same rate as part of its Raise the Rate campaign.
"Why should we invest this money in Australians who are in need of support? One: it is morally right, and the majority of Australians wish to support their neighbours and community members in a manner that covers essential living costs, maintains self-esteem, and allows meaningful participation in society," the letter says
"Two: increased government payments to these cohorts will charge an effective and socially responsible economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that benefits us all."
A 2018 Deloitte Access Economics report found that increasing the rate of the JobSeeker payment, then called Newstart, by $75 a week would add $4 billion to the economy and 12,000 new jobs over three years.
Prior to the pandemic, the rate of Newstart had not been increased in real terms for 25 years.
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