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Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics and Business Correspondent
(Australian Associated Press)
Leading economist Chris Richardson has warned that while Australia has dealt with the coronavirus at a sprint, the battle for jobs will be a marathon.
He is urging the federal government to go “hard and smart” in providing further support and stimulus in next month’s delayed budget.
At top of the list, Mr Richardson, a partner at consultants Deloitte Access Economics, wants a permanent increase in the JobSeeker dole payment.
JobSeeker, previously known as Newstart, was doubled to around $1100 a fortnight through the coronavirus supplement at the start of the crisis.
“For a long time there’s been clear evidence we needed to do more on the unemployment benefit,” Mr Richardson told the National Press Club in Canberra in Wednesday.
“The arrival of the virus has strengthened the case for a stronger unemployment benefit going forward.”
He said the unemployment rate was set to climb from five per cent to 10 per cent.
“If it goes back to the $40 a day, it’s going to be twice as bad, because it’s going to be affecting the incomes of twice as many people,” he said.
The government is cutting the coronavirus supplement later this month that will reduce the JobSeeker payment to $800 per fortnight and then it is due to return to $40 per day at the end of December.
Welfare advocate group ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said people were terrified of what was around the corner, having had the relief of finally being able to buy the “essentials of life”.
“One million children will be affected by these cuts if the federal government does not act,” Dr Goldie said.
Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra agreed that every dollar given in social security is spent.
“Every dollar spent in retail gives someone a job,” he said.
“We can clearly see you can’t have an economic recovery without a retail recovery.”
However, there was less uniform agreement among the three speakers about personal tax cuts.
The government has flagged it may bring forward already legislated tax cuts which are due to operate from 2022. There is another stage in 2024.
Dr Goldie firmly opposes these tax cuts, which will come at a cost of $12 billion and will see people on six-digit salaries get $50 per week but those on low or modest incomes get just $5.
“This proposal would give dollars to people most likely to save the extra dollars, and giving to people who probably need it the least,” she said.
Mr Richardson also has a minor hesitation in supporting the tax cuts simply because some of the money is less likely to be spent.
But Mr Zahra said he was keen to see the tax cut brought forward.
“I think we’d all welcome a tax cut,” he said, although he did concede the timing was probably not great.
The budget on October 6 was delayed from its traditional May release because of the pandemic.