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Fact sheet

Fact Check: Scott Morrison says the unemployment benefit is at the same level that prevailed during the Howard era. Is he correct?

Income support Social security Unemployment Australia

Prime Minister Scott Morrison claimed that a $50 fortnightly increase to the unemployment benefit would take the payment, when expressed as a proportion of the minimum wage, back to where it sat during the period of the Howard Government.

"I think the more relevant feature to focus on is what it is as a percentage of the minimum wage," Mr Morrison said. "And this brings [the unemployment benefit] up from 37.5 per cent up to 41.2 per cent.­­

"That is commensurate with where it sat during the period of the Howard government."

Indeed, the increase lifted the payment (excluding the coronavirus supplement) from 37.5 per cent to 41.2 per cent of the minimum wage.

However, this was below even the lowest point reached during the period of the Howard government, near the end of Mr Howard's prime ministership.

It was also below the average of 43.6 per cent for the Howard-era as a whole, and well under the high reached shortly after Mr Howard was elected.

As experts noted, benchmarking the unemployment benefit against the minimum wage also paints the increase in a more favourable light because the minimum wage has risen more slowly than other forms of income.

For example, the increase took the unemployment benefit to 71.5 per cent of the basic age pension, up from 65.7 per cent.

That was well below the average of 89.3 per cent for the Howard era, and below the low point of 82.8 reached at the end of Mr Howard's prime ministership.

The unemployment benefit has also fallen over the past two decades, relative to the poverty line.

Verdict: Mr Morrison's claim is exaggerated.

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