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Prime minister: scapegoating unemployed workers must end
We call on advocates and allies to support unemployed people in again calling on the government to suspend 'mutual' obligations
The Antipoverty Centre is calling on our allies to join us in denouncing the the prime minister’s damaging decision to further empower jobactive providers, and to reiterate demands that the government suspend payment penalties for people on income support.
The continual scapegoating of poor and disabled people must end.
It is abhorrent to demonise poor people for political ends at any time, but it is beyond disturbing that the prime minister has chosen this moment to dial up the pressure on unemployed workers as we battle rising costs, the threat of COVID and lack of access to testing.
“Yesterday there was an important meeting between Anne Ruston and employers about how we can even better connect jobactive with the urgent needs of the workforce in those particular critical sectors, and tying the jobactive providers even more into the priorities that are coming back through the response from those industries.” – Scott Morrison, 19 January 2021
The fiction that unemployed workers are saying no to jobs is just another blow on top of the expansion of policies that have disproportionately killed poor people and will continue to do so. People are already forced to look for work to receive their payment, and living on half the poverty line is incentive enough to desperately seek a job.
Among the endless reports we have received is this message that came through as this statement was being prepared:
“my dad's been on the phone with Centerlink and Sarina Russo ALL DAY. They are literally going to be the death of him. He can't even use a computer to upload job searches. And he's too disabled to even work!” – anonymous
Another story shared this week:
We exhort our so-called leaders to return to the policies that kept us and the whole community safe in 2020.
Return social security payments to above the poverty line and remove ‘mutual’ obligations requirements so that people are not forced to leave home. unnecessarily.
Expand the availability of vaccination and PCR testing and provide free rapid antigen tests to anyone who needs them.
Reintroduce health-driven test, trace, quarantine and isolate measures and work with public health and community groups to develop measures that will enable us to live more safely with COVID by reducing transmission.
Quotes attributable to Kristin O’Connell of the Antipoverty Centre:
The government’s ongoing cruelty towards us is beyond being too much to bear. People trying to survive on poverty payments are crumbling.
The government has turned unemployment payments into a holding pen for people who are too unwell to work.
550,000 disabled people are in employment services right now, nearly 250,000 of these are in jobactive. It is absurd to think that people who are disabled or chronically ill can suddenly pick up and fill gaps in the workforce.
Many of the jobs they are trying to fill are demanding and require training. Anyone who thinks bullying people who’ve been locked out of work into these jobs will solve the problem is kidding themselves.
As they once again turn the screws on poor people, pushing the myth that we are refusing work and causing supply shortages with his dog whistling, the advocates are being inundated with reports of immunocompromised and disabled people being bullied into attending in-person appointments by the very jobactive providers that are being further rewarded.
The fiction that unemployed workers saying no to jobs is just another blow on top of the expansion of policies that have disproportionately killed poor people and will continue to do so.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the government has prioritised the profits of job agencies over the needs of people living in poverty.
A few days ago employment minister Stuart Robert the issued job agencies a license to bully people in (un)employment services into unnecessarily leaving the house, exposing themselves to COVID risk for the sake of pointless “mutual” obligations appointments and activities.
Last week, the minister for social services Anne Ruston, who’s responsibility is to ensure the wellbeing of people on social security payments, attacked us in the media, implying we are to blame for supply shortages that are the direct result of their own deadly policies.
The government knows that the “mutual” obligations system is dangerous. They know that bullying and lies are rampant. They have been provided with endless evidence.
To hand the job agencies an even bigger stick to wield against people living through a pandemic on half the poverty line is beyond cruelty.
Unemployed people are desperate for jobs. You do not need to punish us further as a “motivational” tool.