Rishworth’s economic “inclusion” committee bill insulting to people in poverty
Advice and policies that affect those on the lowest incomes must be led by us
Today social services minister Amanda Rishworth introduced a bill to enshrine the Economic “Inclusion” Advisory Committee in legislation. She claimed the committee will comprise a “diverse range of experts” – despite the complete exclusion of any experts in poverty or the welfare system on her committee about poverty.
She cannot expect to be taken seriously with this proposal.
Included below: comments from Antipoverty Centre spokesperson Jay Coonan, AUWU spokesperson Catherine Caine, background on the committee and crisis line contact information.
The Antipoverty Centre calls on independents and the Greens to oppose this bill in its current form and for civil society to support our demand for the committee to include unemployed advocates.
The minister cannot claim ignorance – the Antipoverty Centre wrote to her calling for changes when the committee was first announced and our calls have been supported by many others.
While paid advocates, academic experts, unions, business and economists have contributions to make, they are not experts in the needs of those of us suffering the consequences of existing social policies that leave us behind.
The expertise of people directly experiencing poverty and economic exclusion must carry more weight than those who speak over and for us.
We again call on the government to make the exclusion committee inclusive by making following changes:
Make the committee itself inclusive by ensuring it is majority-comprised of organisations run by and for people with direct experience of economic exclusion instead of relying on those that have traditionally not had people with this expertise leading policy or strategy. In addition to the Antipoverty Centre, some examples of other organisations that meet this criteria are: RISE Refugees, People with Disability Australia, Anti-Poverty Network SA (not affiliated with the Antipoverty Centre) and the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union.
Every member appointed to the committee who is not currently experiencing economic exclusion themselves must have demonstrably contributed to improving economic inclusion in the past.
For the public to have any confidence in the committee its processes, discussions, decisions and advice must be fully transparent.
We again implore the government to work with unemployed advocates and welfare recipients to develop a sophisticated, fit-for-purpose measure of poverty and depoliticise our ability to live by taking payment rate decisions out of politicians’ hands.
Media contact: 0403 429 414 / media at antipovertycentre.org
Quotes attributable to Antipoverty Centre spokesperson and JobSeeker recipient Jay Coonan
Since the day it took office the Albanese government has continually sidelined and ignored the voices of people in poverty.
Existing approaches to consultation either completely exclude, marginalise or tokenistically include us.
The political classes’ belief that professional paid advocates and academics understand poverty better than those experiencing it is bizarre.
If things are going to improve, the government must bring critical voices to the table and not appoint their former ministers to the table to speak over us. Enough is enough.
People in poverty are the most important stakeholders for the Economic “Inclusion” Committee because we are the ones they are failing the most.
The government must redesign its exclusion committee to be inclusive, and ensure groups led by people in poverty and others who are marginalised are appointed.
An Economic “Inclusion” Committee that does not address this has no legitimacy.
People can’t feed, cool or house themselves and it is only going to get worse. They’re denying the most impoverished people in society an income as they pull various levers to force us into bullshit jobs and hand out billions in subsidies to people with superannuation and investment portfolios.
At the very least this government must put people who know what it’s like to be subjected to our awful social security system in positions of leadership – honestly, it’s the bare minimum and it’s pathetic that they’re not even willing to do that.
Quotes attributable to Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union committee member and spokesperson for income support Catherine Caine*
Why is the Labor government so averse to listening to people in poverty?
Even their Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee – a body designed to advise on rates of income support – is proposing a membership with no guaranteed places for people affected by these rates.
What are they afraid we'll tell them?
*Catherine Caine also leads the Nobody Deserves Poverty campaign. Visit the website for more information.
The Economic “Inclusion” Advisory Committee was first announced in 2022 as part of a deal between the government and Senator David Pocock.
An interim committee hand picked by the government was established and reported to government in the lead up to the May 2023 budget. Its recommendations were deeply inadequate.
This bill sets in stone the failures of the interim exclusion committee led by Jenny Macklin. It in no way reflects how such a body should be composed or what its powers should be.
The interim committee failed to the test of independence, failed the test of including people with direct and recent experience of poverty, and failed the test of consulting grassroots groups led by those in poverty.
Tokenistic consultation and lip service to “lived experience” are fashionable. But unemployed advocates – experts with direct, contemporary experience of poverty who participate in advocacy and policy work – should be viewed and treated as equals. We must have a central role in shaping a more equal, inclusive and supportive future for us all, as must representatives of other groups comprised of people who are economically excluded.
In the longer term, we do not believe a powerless committee with the remit to provide advice to government in the weeks leading up to the federal budget can ever have enough power to achieve economic inclusion for those of us who need it most.
The government should work towards estabilishing a well funded, truly independent body that can take the lead on developing a new, sophisticated measure of poverty that is appropriate for the 21st century. It should have the power to make independent decisions based on evidence and ensure that policies uphold human rights and guarantee dignity to those on social security payments, and those who need income support but are currently excluded from it.
Crisis support and counselling services
If you need support you can seek guidance, counselling or crisis help from the below organisations or talk to someone you trust.
Suicide Call Back Service – general: 1300 659 467
SANE Australia – general: 1800 187 263
13YARN – for First Nations people: 13 92 76
National Counselling and Referral Service – for disabled people: 1800 421 468
Headspace – for young people: 1800 650 890
QLife – fo LGBTQIA+ people: 1800 184 527
Full Stop – for people who have experienced sexual harassment and assault: 1800 385 578
Embrace Mental Health – multilingual service: embracementalhealth.org.au
MensLine – for men: 1300 789 978
Brother to Brother – for First Nations men: 1800 435 799
About the Antipoverty Centre
The Antipoverty Centre was established in May 2021 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.
The Antipoverty Centre is not aligned with any political party and does not accept funding that places political constraints on our work.