Minister tight-lipped on JobSeeker rate

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham remains tight-lipped on the future of JobSeeker payments once coronavirus supplements are withdrawn.

The federal government’s expenditure review committee has met to discuss a new permanent rate of the unemployment benefit.

But Senator Birmingham will not say how much more the unemployed can expect to receive after the $150 fortnightly supplements are taken away at the end of March.

“We’re still finalising all of our decisions in these areas,” he told ABC radio on Monday.

“We’ll make any announcements about that, as we’ve indicated, well and truly clear by the end of March.”

Senator Birmingham said other support programs like the JobMaker scheme would continue to support the economy beyond March.

But fresh doubts have been raised about whether the $4 billion hiring credit scheme could do more harm than good.

The scheme pays companies up to $200 a week to hire people aged under 30.

Businesses are offered $100 a week for hiring 30 to 35 year olds.

Treasury documents obtained by the ABC show employers could sack experienced employees, replace them with cheaper part-time workers, and still pocket taxpayer cash.

The department warned bosses could fire someone earning $75,000, replace them with three staff on $30,000 and use JobMaker grants to pay the $15,000 gap.

“This isn’t an incentive to hire workers, it’s an incentive to fire workers,” Labor deputy leader Richard Marles said.

“Having deliberately excluded almost a million Australians aged over 35 from the hiring credit, these workers haven’t just been left out and left behind by the Morrison government, they’ve been singled out and sacrificed.”

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