CANBERRA, AAP – The minister responsible for emergency payments has boldly declared she would rather be on welfare in Australia than anywhere else in the world.
State and federal governments have ramped up support for individuals and businesses affected by Greater Sydney’s extended lockdown.
People who usually work 20 hours or more will get $750 per week and those who work less will get $450.
Welfare recipients who have lost eight hours of work a week or more will get a $200 top-up on their regular payments.
But there are 350,000 people on welfare in Greater Sydney lockdown areas who won’t get any extra support.
They can’t look for work because they’re in lockdown and will not be offered coronavirus supplements that were given out last year.
Emergency Management Minister Bridget McKenzie defended the exclusion of unemployed welfare recipients from disaster payments.
Senator McKenzie said the scheme was designed to supplement the incomes of working people and argued everyone left out could access to a “strong and supportive” welfare system instead.
“When you look globally at the economic impacts on individuals we can be very, very glad we actually live in a country like Australia where we have such a strong social network of welfare payments,” she told ABC radio.
“I would rather be on welfare here in Australia than anywhere else in the world going through this global pandemic.”
Welfare advocates have been quick to point out Australia has the least generous unemployment payments in the developed world.
Australia also has one of the highest rates of poverty among people on age pensions.
University union official Damien Cahill described the minister’s comments as disgraceful, disrespectful and completely out of touch.
“If any coalition minister tried to maintain their privileged lifestyle whilst subsisting on Australia’s meagre unemployment assistance programs, they’d blow the lot in a hour and starve for the rest of the week,” he said.