A new attack on the unemployed is on the way and there is good reason to oppose it

By Adam Carlton

The federal government is trying to rush a bill though parliament, imposing measures to make it even harder to get unemployment payments.

Applicants for an unemployment benefit will be forced, to complete an application process, complete a complex online job plan, and attend a first meeting with a private network provider. The new measures ensure that there will be no payment till this point or back payment for any delay in the process.

The Senate Standing Committee on Education and Employment hands down a report into the Bill is due today. Labor has yet to decide whether will support the bill. If it not blocked, it could come into effect from 1 July.

Treatment of one of the most vulnerable groups in Australia with such cruelty is only possible, with a political establishment lacking in empathy and nation being left in the dark about what is going on.

This provides the government with the gain is cutting an estimated $191.6 million over the next four year, more than half of its target of cutting a total of $352 million. This abuse of the unemployed has nothing to do with finding jobs.

The new  bill includes a ramped up “mutual obligation requirement. This might sound reasonable on the surface. It isn’t. The obligation is only on the job seeker. There is no obligation on Centrelink or the private network providers to ensure reasonable treatment and help find real jobs.

People seeking help is forced into a system that compels a charade of regularly listing a huge list of applications. They are forced to go to appointments that produce nothing and attend usually poorly designed and useless training sessions. The department’s own data shows that mutual obligation reduces the chances of finding  work. It uses up time and  energy that could be better spent on properly preparing job applications around what the person is qualified for.

Mutual obligation will involve participation on an online program and the  existing provision against unreasonable requirements imposed by the private network providers will be removed. These changes will put pressure on the unemployed and get more to drop out of the system. Official unemployed statistics can be misleadingly lowered. .

The number of people on the Work For The Dole scheme will be doubled. Its victims as a source of cheap labour without the usual workplace protections. Rarely does it lead to lasting work.

The private agencies operating in the system, have notorious for mistreatment of the unemployed, who are treated as a cash cow, to be milked for lucrative payments from the government. This inevitably  leads to the imposition of unjust requirements, and the failure comply with them leads to being reported and having payments suspended or stopped.

They will be rebranded as ‘Enhanced Services’.

To be treated fairly and be treated with respect are basic human rights, which everyone should be entitled to without exception. This includes those who find themselves out of work. A system which does not respect these rights harms Australia. It promotes that some should be regarded as less equal to others and opens the gate to scapegoating.

A succession of Australian governments has practiced this style of politics.

If’ we don’t want this, the victimisation of the unemployed must stop.

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