Burke must immediately pause Centrelink payment suspensions following Workforce Australia inquiry report
Government inquiry admits deeply flawed system – millions of suspension notices were issued in the year of the inquiry
The Antipoverty Centre and Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union are calling on employment minister Tony Burke to immediately pause payment suspensions for welfare recipients following the release of the report for the government’s inquiry into Workforce Australia.
The employment services inquiry was announced in August 2022 following a campaign by the Antipoverty Centre and AUWU calling for suspensions to be paused in the wake of the chaotic Workforce Australia rollout in July 2022.
In the year the inquiry has taken, more than 2 million payment suspension notifications were issued to people subjected to compulsory activities in Workforce Australia.1 A recent Antipoverty Centre survey of 600 welfare recipients found that 85% had a problem with their payment caused by an employment services provider. 93% said “mutual” obligations harmed their mental or physical health.
Quotes attributable to Antipoverty Centre spokesperson and JobSeeker recipient Jay Coonan
Although today’s report outlines major changes, reforming (un)employment services will not stop the rot at the heart of Workforce Australia – the cruel system of “mutual” obligations.
The report completely ignores what we all know – the shamefully low rate of Centrelink payments is a barrier to work. Payments above the poverty line would do more to help people find a job than adding even more complexity to the system of rules and punishment.
The Workforce Australia inquiry has shown again that “mutual” obligations are being incorrectly applied and causing mass harm to those of us who are battling to survive on half the poverty line.
Every payment suspension wreaks havoc for people trying to navigate the system.
The government makes excuses about not being able to stop suspensions, but we know the real reason they haven’t is because the private organisations who cut us off have told them not to.
While we waited for this inquiry to tell us what we already know, 2 million suspension notices were issued.
The inquiry report clearly recognises that employment services must be overhauled.
We call on Tony Burke to immediately stop the harm and protect welfare recipients while Labor pursues its reforms – pause payment suspensions now to protect welfare recipients, just like he did following the ParentsNext report.
Quotes attributable to Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union officer Jeremy Poxon
Over the last 18 months, the Labor government has chosen to continue a system that harms welfare recipients, their families and their communities every single day.
Today, they had every opportunity to end the misery inflicted on us by private providers, and once again they've refused.
They couldn’t even pick the low hanging fruit and recommend abolishing Work for the Dole – the party of Labor should hang its head in shame for continuing the policy of forcing poor people to do unpaid labour.
We renew our demand for this government to immediately suspend all “mutual obligations” – the pain and punishment has to stop.
JobSeeker recipients in the Workforce Australia program are available for interview.
Media contact: 0413 261 362 / media at antipovertycentre.org
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About the Antipoverty Centre
The Antipoverty Centre was established by people living on Centrelink payments to counter problems with academics, think tanks and others in the political class making harmful decisions on behalf of people they purport to represent.
We have deep expertise in poverty, disadvantage and unemployment, because we live it. Our goal is to help ensure the voices and rights of people living in poverty are at the centre of social policy development and discourse. We believe there should be no decision made about us without us.
About the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union
The Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union is a volunteer organisation run by the unemployed, for the unemployed. AUWU runs the country's only independent national hotline advocating for people in employment services
Antipoverty Centre analysis of compliance data published by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations: https://www.dewr.gov.au/employment-research/job-seeker-compliance-data