(Australian Associated Press)
Thousands of Australians who lose their jobs before Christmas could be forced to wait months for income support.
People will soon be expected to draw down on their savings before accessing JobSeeker payments.
The Morrison government is reintroducing liquid asset waiting periods, which have been suspended for the past six months throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Funds readily available to jobless people and their partners will be scrutinised again from Friday, including money still owed by their employers.
Singles with as little as $5500 in cash will need to wait at least a week before applying for JobSeeker, while those with $11,500 or more will be forced to wait 13 weeks.
The fund thresholds are doubled for people with partners or dependents.
The reinstated waiting periods will not apply to people already receiving the dole.
But with 400,000 more Australians expected to lose their jobs before Christmas, Labor is concerned about people pushed onto unemployment benefits for the first time.
Opposition frontbencher Linda Burney is worried about people who have dipped into their superannuation early and those who are no longer eligible for JobKeeper wage subsidies.
“The government wants to force struggling Australians to eat through their savings before they can access income support,” she told AAP on Wednesday.
“Now is not the time to resume the liquid assets waiting period.”
Only five per cent of welfare applicants served a liquid asset waiting period in the past financial year.
Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said the vast majority of people applying for JobSeeker would not need to wait.
“Australians expect that where possible people use their own financial resources to support themselves before they call on the taxpayer,” she told AAP.
“There are provisions to waive the liquid asset waiting period where a person can demonstrate they are in severe financial hardship.”
People who serve the maximum 13-week waiting period have an average of $74,000 cash on hand.
One in four people usually have more than $100,000 in cash reserves, according to government figures for the last financial year.
Labor wants the government to extend the suspension of the waiting periods and withdraw a bill from parliament that would double the lengths of time.