Parliament must #RejectTheMOsBill to protect most vulnerable
Contempt for democratic process will leave hundreds of thousands of unemployed people worse off.
The Antipoverty Centre condemns the government’s obscene and antidemocratic attempts to force through sweeping changes to social security law that will hurt hundreds of thousands of people, further entrenching deep inequality and poverty.
We call on the Labor party and crossbench MPs to block this bill and allow more time for scrutiny so its ramifications can be understood. The Social Security Legislation Amendment (Streamlined Participation Requirements and Other Measures) Bill 2021 must not pass in its current form.
The government claims this bill is important because it will enable the introduction of the New Employment Services Model – there is no reason to rush this through given that the NESM is not due to start until July 2022.
Every day that passes reveals new information about the negative implications of this bill, and yet the committee has recklessly recommended the government push ahead with changes that will hurt and exploit hundreds of thousands of people, without even fully understanding the extent of the changes.
We are urging Richard Marles, Shadow Minister for Employment, to hold the government’s feet to the fire on this – from antipoverty activists to welfare advocates and the employment services peak body, we are united against this bill.
“The poorest and most vulnerable among us have had our voices ignored and been left out in the cold yet again, as the government further erodes our “safety” net and drives us into ever-more-grinding poverty.” – Jay Coonan, Antipoverty Centre
“The government’s vampiric desire to make hundreds of millions in savings off the backs of the poorest people in society is no excuse for forcing through the biggest changes to participation requirements in a generation. Older people, homeless folks, those in internet poverty or without access to technology are set to be hurt the most.” – Kristin O’Connell, Antipoverty Centre
“This is ludicrous even by government standards – we didn’t even have time to properly inform poor people as to what the changes are. They don’t want to actually hear from the poor, they don’t want the media to put any spotlight on it, hence how difficult they’ve also made it to understand by forcing us to wade through 2000 pages of amended legislation. – Jeremy Poxon, antipoverty activist
The Antipoverty Centre has numerous concerns about the bill, including:
When asked whether the bill was being rushed due to fears the department was operating unlawfully, representatives of the department obfuscated, refusing to rule out the possibility – an urgent investigation is needed to understand whether the department is complying with existing laws.
We are disturbed by the sweeping new powers granted to the employment secretary, who will be able to designate new “employment programs”, creating the potential for huge expansion of Work for the Dole-like forced labour programs.
In the week that robodebt has yet again been in the news, the government is pushing ahead with changes that bear all the hallmarks of the catastrophic program: heavy reliance on opaque technology that’s hard to use and understand; imposing severe financial penalties on the people who are least confident using digital systems; and the fear that the department has been operating unlawful programs.
Under the changes as proposed, around 900,000 people would be in “enhanced services”, leaving them more exposed to brutal job agencies than they are already and further fuelling private profit from the social security system.
The government continues to ignore all evidence that shows “mutual” obligations are harmful, including a new study of more than 6,000 people that shows subjecting people to participation requirements makes it harder for them to get a job.1
More information about our position and commentary on the bill is available here: https://apcentre.substack.com/p/lessons-not-learned-needs-not-met
Media contact: 0413 261 362 / media at antipovertycentre.org
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"Our results, in an Australian context, suggest that those subjected to benefit eligibility requirements, despite searching at least as hard, take longer to find employment. Moreover, they spend less time in employment in the first twelve months and, if employed, have jobs with lower wages and fewer hours compared to otherwise similar unemployed without benefit eligibility requirements.“ Source: https://doi-org.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/10.1080/13504851.2021.1927960