By Lew Wheeler
As part of the latest round of cruel attacks, the Turnbull government continues to characterise welfare recipients as the undeserving poor and to add to their punishment and humiliation now wants to:
- trial drug testing of 5000 new recipients of unemployment payments from 1 January 2018 and penalise those who refuse
- give Centrelink more powers to financially penalise the unemployed
- force more people onto the Cashless Debit Card and into the Cashless Welfare system
- move to sack up to 1,000 Centrelink staff and privatise call centre operations
- kick people with drug and alcohol issues off the Disability Support Pension (Jenny Davidson, CEO, Council for Single Mothers and their Children (CSMC), speaker notes for FGFP 24 May 2017 protest rally).
- make it harder for single parents to receive the Parenting Payment Single
- require new and existing single parents who receive government benefits – Parenting Payment Single or Newstart Allowance – to prove they are not in a relationship by having a third party verify their relationship status, including the threat of up to 12 months imprisonment for individuals and their guarantors if they provide false information
- move to expand robo-debt to target those on the Age Pension or Disability Support Payments.
- move to axe the Energy Supplement for welfare recipients meaning 2.2 millioion.
Australians could lose between $4.40 a week for those on unemployment payment to $7 a week for age pensioners.
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) reports that it is pensioners, carers, people with disability, people who are unemployed, and single parents who will have their social security base income cut if the bill to slash the Energy Supplement is passed.
As the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union (AUWU) states, “these measures are part of a broader attempt to effectively cripple our social security system. The result is the current mess: an overworked staff, inability to provide basic services, absurd call-waiting times, 36 million unanswered calls in 2016, not to mention the ‘robo-debt’ which saw tens of thousands of Australians defrauded by their own government.
FGFP demands that the Turnbull coalition government stops demonising, criminalising and/or pathologising those on social security to build up the myth we are the undeserving poor. Instead of peddling this cruel, harmful and demeaning mythology start actually helping people and here are places to start.
- Lift Newstart Allowance by $100 per week
- Reverse the draconian measures i – ix outlined above
- Reverse the move to sack up to 1,000 Centrelink staff and employ at least an additional 500 staff to handle the ever increasing workload
- Establish publicly funded and administered job creation schemes which pay decent wages and conditions, including culturally and linguistically appropriate training linked to labour market demand.
FGFP thanks ACOSS, AUWU and Jenny Davidson, CEO Council of Single Mothers and their Children (CSMC) for their work. AUWU and CSMC are representative members of the Victorian Steering Committee, FGFP.